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COPYRIGHT, 193 3, BY FARRAR 8c RINEHART, INC. 
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 
BY QUINN 8c BODEN COMPANY, INC., RAHWAY, N. J. 
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Books by Grand Duke Alexander 



ONCE A GRAND DUKE 
ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 
TWILIGHT OF ROYALTY 




THE GRAND DUKE ALEXANDER OF RUSSIA 

1866—1933 

Photographed in France shortly before his death 



Keystone Photo 




That man is blessed who was born 
In dreaded years destroying levels, 

The gods have asked him to their revels, 
He is their equal until morn. 

When the immortals put on trial 
The human race, he sits with them 
And drinks, — a god himself pro tern, — 
Of immortality the vial. 

— Tutcheff 



fr.H^HH^-M^*^^*^**^^^*^*****’^* * * » * * * **** 



PUBLISHER’S PREFACE 

Since Always a Grand Duke appears posthumously, we 
think it proper to include a note concerning the last days 
of the Grand Duke Alexander’s life, the facts of which we 
have been given by his New York Representative and 
friend. 

"He became ill shortly after his return from the United 
States in the fall of 1931. He had the misfortune of re- 
maining in France, instead of going to consult the German 
or the American physicians. Up to the very last moment 
the Cote d’ Azure doctors were unable to pronounce a 
definite diagnosis. They thought it was 'the tuberculosis 
of the spine.’ Judging by the excruciating pains he suf- 
fered it must have been cancer. 

"Not for a day in all those sixteen months did he stop 
working. Nothing could make him change his routine. 
Up at 6 a.m. Awaiting for his secretary, who would awake 
three hours later, he would read newspapers (the New 
York Times, The Manchester Guardian, Le Temps and 
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung ) and revise what had been 
written by him the day before. Toward midday he would 
be given his injection of camphor: the pains would in- 

vii 



PUBLISHER’S PREFACE 



crease to an extent which would make him grudgingly 
consent to the daily medical examination. 

"Within the last fifteen months of his life, ill as he was, 
he had written three books, Twilight of Royalty, Always 
a Grand Duke, and a historical novel based on the life of 
Catherine the Great, many magazine articles and had pre- 
pared a great mass of material, which was to provide the 
bulk of the new book he was planning on Queen Alex- 
andra of England and her sister, Dowager-Empress Marie 
of Russia. 

"What subjects attracted his particular attention dur- 
ing the last year of his life could be determined from the 
following titles of the books, which he asked me to mail 
to him: The Federal Reserve System : Its Origin and 
Growth by Paul Warburg; The United States in World 
Affairs by Walter Lippmann; Light in August by William 
Faulkner; Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway; 
March of Democracy and The Epic of America by James 
T. Adams; The Sheltered Life by Ellen Glasgow; and 
scores of other books. 

"He was not afraid of death. In a measure he welcomed 
it. Not that he was tired or disappointed. Far from it. 
He was curious. . . . To a Russian priest who came to 
'comfort’ him on last Christmas he said: 'Be careful. I may 
have an opportunity of checking up on your statements 
very soon.’ It is ironical that his relatives should have ig- 
nored his wishes and given him a Church burial. 



PUBLISHER’S PREFACE 

"In one of his last letters to me (January 29) he said: 
'I realize that I am a bad patient but what would you? 
We, the Romanovs, become ill just once in our lives. Then 
we die.’ This was correct. With the exception of those of 
his relatives who were shot by the Soviets, all the others 
had died in the same fashion, in the same place: on the 
Cote d’Azure, from the only illness that ever befell them. 
His father, his sister, his two cousins, one of his uncles and 
his younger brother — they all passed through the hands of 
the Cote d’Azure physicians. He himself had never been 
ill in all his life, not until November of 1931. 

"The last chapter of Always a Grand Duke was com- 
pleted by him three weeks before his death. Being super- 
stitious, I did not like the final sentence ('I am going 
home,’ etc.). I sent him a letter asking his permission to 
change it. 'Do not change the ending. It is a happy end- 
ing,’ he wrote to me in his very last letter dated Febru- 
ary 1 8 th. 

"On the night of February 2jth-February 26th a 'Big 
Ball’ was given by the former graduates of the St. Peters- 
burg Corps of Pages. His wife (Grand Duchess Xenia) 
was to be the guest of honor. She left his bedside at 1 1 p.m. 
Only his daughter, Princess Yousoupoff, remained with 
him. He urged her to go. He always liked parties, balls 
and large gatherings. He could not understand why any- 
one should prefer the company of a sick man. At 3 a.m. 
he called her and complained of insufferable pains. A mes- 



IX 



PUBLISHER’S PREFACE 



senger was dispatched to the Pages’ Ball to fetch his wife 
and the physician. When they arrived, he was dead. He 
died while they danced. There had been no 'last words’ or 
'parting blessings.’ He always hated melodrama. 

"Looking back on the history of my association with 
him, I can see both his qualities and his shortcomings. He 
was opinionated and tolerant, belligerent and kind, sar- 
castic and romantic. Above all: he had always been an 
arch-foe of bunkum in all its forms and disguises.” 



x 



FOREWORD 



My publishers tell me that Always a Grand Duke is a 
good title. For all I know, it might be true. I personally 
wanted to call this book The Recapture. It sounds some- 
what Proustian, but it becomes the contents. Just as Once 
a Grand Duke was the record of things lost and oppor- 
tunities squandered, the present volume is a registry of 
values redeemed. The action takes place this time out- 
side of Russia. The number of reigning sovereigns in the 
cast of characters is reduced from sixteen to ten, which 
leaves a blank fortunately filled by the American and 
Abyssinian potentates. 

There is going to be no sequel. There never is to a life 
rescued in the nick of time. It just rolls on. 

An acknowledgment is due to a young artist who lives 
in the house across the street from me and who was work- 
ing all these months on the program of his first piano 
recital, consisting entirely of Bach. It helped me a great 
deal! I felt as though I were in New York. 

Alexander, grand duke of Russia. 

Alpes Maritimes 
January, 1933 



CONTENTS 



i. 

n. 

hi. 

IV. 

V. 

VI. 

VII. 

VIII. 
IX. 

X. 

XI. 

XII. 

XIII. 



FOREWORD 

LAZARUS COMES FORTH 
THE RITZ SAGA 

A NUMISMAT SETTLES HIS BILLS 
RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 
IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 
OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 
CYRIL AND HIS INVISIBLE EMPIRE 
AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 
THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 
THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 
"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA* 
“POTSDAM, U. S. A.” 

"A LECTURER SEES IT through” 



xi 

3 

30 

51 

65 

86 

107 

135 

150 

175 

198 

217 

241 

269 

287 



XIV, 



THE RECAPTURE 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



THE GRAND DUKE ALEXANDER frontis. 

THE KING AND QUEEN OF ITALY 32 

KING GEORGE AND QUEEN MARY 33 

THE KING AND QUEEN OF DENMARK 48 

THE PRINCE OF WALES 49 

GRAND DUKE CYRIL AND HIS FAMILY 1 12 

A LETTER FROM KING GEORGE 113 

EMPEROR RAS TAFFARI 128 

ALFRED LOWENSTEIN 1 29 

I VAR KREUGER 1 92 

MYRON T. HERRICK 1 93 

THE LATE DOWAGER-QUEEN ALEXANDRA 208 

THE LATE DOWAGER-EMPRESS MARIE 209 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 






CHAPTER ONE 
LAZARUS COMES FORTH 

i 

We can suffer only so much, and then, just as we are 
about to dash our heads against the wall, something snaps 
inside of us and sends us meandering over a new and un- 
charted route, sailless but oblivion-bound at last. 

This mysterious device for self-preservation started 
working in me on that pale-blue January afternoon of 
1919 when, standing at the window of the Paris Express 
at the station of Taranto and trying to outyell the shrill 
accents of the Italian porters, I bade farewell to the officers 
of H.M.S. Forsythe that had taken me out of the furnace 
of revolution-swept Russia. 

“Sorry not to be able to sail you straight into the palm- 
garden of the Ritz in Paris,” said the Commander laugh- 
ingly. 

“So am I,” I answered with apparent feeling but 
thought, “Heaven be praised for that . . 

Appreciative as I was of their touching attention and 
great kindness, not for a single moment during the four 
days spent aboard their cruiser could I suppress that hor- 



3 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



rible sense of acute humiliation caused by the fact that a 
grandson of Emperor Nicholas I had to be rescued from 
Russians by Britishers. I did my utmost to chase away 
these bitter thoughts. I made frantic efforts to be gay 
and simulate an interest in their stories of the Battle of 
Jutland and of the four-year blockade of Germany, but 
a voice, a harsh, hissing, sarcastic voice never stopped whis- 
pering in my ears. 

"You old fool, you inveterate dreamer!” it said over 
and over again. "You imagine that you have escaped from 
your past but here it is, glaring at you from every nook 
and corner. ... You see these Britishers? They look 
smart, don’t they? And theirs is a beautiful cruiser, isn’t 
it? Well, how about those twenty-four years wasted by 
you in the Russian Navy? You used to fool yourself into 
the belief that you would be able to outbuild and outsmart 
the British, and here you are ... A refugee accepting the 
hospitality of your royal British cousin, saved by his men 
from the furor of your own sailors, drinking the health of 
His Britannic Majesty while your own Emperor has been 
shot and your brothers are nightly awaiting their doom 
and your navy is lying at the bottom of the Black Sea! A 
great admiral you have proven to be. . . .” 

During the meals I took in the company of the Com- 
mander I recurred to every conceivable ruse so as to keep 
my eyes from seeing the portrait of George V hanging on 
the wall just opposite my place at table. The similarity 



4 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



between the features of the British sovereign and those of 
the late Czar, striking at all times, was positively unbear- 
able now, aboard the Forsythe. It set my mind on the 
track of haunting memories, it made me recall in minutest 
detail the words of Nicky, who often said jokingly that, 
were he to wear a cutaway and a "topper” and appear 
arm in arm with his cousin George in the royal enclosure 
at Epsom, he would be certain to cause a great number 
of bets among the racetrack crowds as to "which is 
which.” 

At night I lay awake in my cabin, my fists clenched and 
my eyes riveted to the porthole. It seemed to me there 
was little sense in prolonging the agony and that a brave 
jump overboard would put me out of my misery. There 
were children to be considered, of course, seven of them, 
but I feared that I had failed not only as an admiral and 
a statesman but as a father as well. If I had not hesitated 
to leave them behind, in Russia, was it not the best possible 
proof that I felt sure they could be taken care of and 
brought up without my assistance? I had no money left 
to give them and they had nothing to learn from me. Un- 
like their mother and grandmother, who continued to 
believe in the impeccability of the World of the Romanoffs, 
I knew that all our truths were lies and all our wisdom 
just one colossal conglomerate of vague illusions and stale 
platitudes. I could not teach my sons my official religion 
because it had gone bankrupt four years previous on the 



5 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



fields of the Marne and Tannenberg. I could not lecture 
them on the awesome subject of our "duties toward the 
State” because an outlaw has no duties toward a State that 
died the unlamented death of a homeless tramp. . . . 

And there I was, a man of fifty-three, without money, 
occupation, country, home or even address, brooding over 
the past, dreading the thought of falling asleep lest I 
should dream of those who were gone, and postponing 
suicide from night to night just because of a somewhat 
old-fashioned scruple to cause "unpleasant notoriety” to 
the amiable Commander of H.M.S. Forsythe. 

2 

Our twenty-four-hour stay in Constantinople, instead 
of distracting me, as I had hoped, nearly drove me com- 
pletely insane. I planned to spend the entire day in the 
soothing solitude of the Aya-Sophia Mosque, but a repre- 
sentative of the British Supreme Command who boarded 
the ship when we entered the Golden Horn brought me a 
message from Countess Brassova, the morganatic wife of 
my late brother-in-law Grand Duke Michael Alexandro- 
vich. Not having heard from her husband for the past 
eight months — he had been shot by the Bolsheviks in June, 
1 9 1 8 — she refused to believe the Soviet reports concerning 
his death and thought I was bringing her a letter from 
her dear Misha. 



6 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 

"Your Imperial Highness will find her,” explained the 
Britisher, "at the Hotel Tokatlian in Therapia. When you 
get there, she wants you not to give your name to the room 
clerk but to remain on the veranda facing the sea, so she 
can see you from the windows of her suite.” 

"Why all this? It sounds like a page from a detective 
story. Whom is she afraid of?” 

"The Bolsheviks,” he said apologetically, obviously sorry 
for the poor Countess. 

"The Bolsheviks? Here in Constantinople?” 

"Well, Your Imperial Highness, the truth is that the 
Countess fears that the agents of the Soviets may attempt 
to kidnap her son and that, knowing your arrival is ex- 
pected, they may use your name to gain entry.” 

I must admit I hated to go ashore. I knew in advance 
that I was going to meet another victim of that well-nigh 
incurable illness which I call "Bolshevikophobia” and 
which turns many an otherwise sensible person into a 
maniac who sees the "far-reaching hand of the Soviets” 
in everything that takes place under the sun. And besides, 
what could I possibly tell the hapless woman? I had no 
letter for her and it would have been too horrible on my 
part to try to destroy her dreams of meeting her husband 
again. For the past six months I had been exhausting my 
supply of logic and patience in talking to my wife, my 
sister-in-law and my mother-in-law who maintained with 
all the fervor of real devotion that their brother and son 



7 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Nicky had been "rescued by the Almighty” from the 
hands of the Bolshevik executioners in Siberia. I needed 
not to talk to Brassova to predict that no evidence, no 
proof and no testimony of witnesses could outweigh blind 
faith and thirst for a miracle in the mind of a woman in 
love. Were I to insist that she should abandon her senseless 
waiting and turn her affection exclusively to her little son, 
she might have imagined that as a Romanoff I was still 
frowning on the marriage of a brother of the Czar to a 
twice divorced daughter of a Moscow lawyer. 

"May I ask Your Imperial Highness, whether you will 
see Countess Brassova or not?” finally asked the Britisher, 
no doubt reading my thoughts. 

I sighed and off we went to Therapia to play hide-and- 
seek with imaginary Bolsheviks. 

After a long delay — I was sitting on a veranda over- 
looking the Sea of Marmora and watching a Greek 
freighter going in the direction of Russia — I suddenly 
heard a faint tap on the glass. I turned and looked around. 
I was alone but the tapping continued. It sounded as 
though it were coming from somewhere above. I raised 
my head and saw a hand thrust between the tightly drawn 
curtains of a window on the second floor. Then the tapping 
ceased and the hand began to signal with all five wide- 
spread fingers. One . . . two . . . three ... a pause, 
and a single finger. She must mean she is in apartment No. 
1 6, I decided, and made for the lobby, fighting with my- 

8 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



self to keep down the irritation caused by this clumsy 
attempt at secrecy. 

At the door of apartment No. 16 I was met by a middle- 
aged woman who asked me to step into the salon and take 
a seat. To my great surprise, instead of announcing me 
to Brassova, she remained standing in the center of the 
floor and glaring straight into my face. At first I pre- 
tended not to notice her presence, but then I could not 
control myself any longer and shouted in a perfect rage: 

"Listen you, whoever you may be . . . This thing has 
gone far enough. I won’t stand it for another moment. 
After all, I am only human and I have nerves too. If you 
still doubt whether I am myself, go ahead and pull my 
beard to see if it is real but for God’s sake stop this grue- 
some comedy!” 

"Now I know it is really Grand Duke Alexander,” ex- 
claimed a familiar voice in the adjoining room and Brassova 
burst in, bubbling over with excitement and full of 
apologies for what she termed "necessary measures of pre- 
caution dictated by common sense.” 

Her manner and appearance startled me. Little if any- 
thing was left of that supremely cold, dictatorial, majestic 
woman who had swept my poor brother-in-law off his feet 
and made him exchange his title, position and estates for 
the life of an exile. She still kept that tall thin figure of an 
"uncrowned empress” and that capricious expression of a 
firm mouth which, coupled with a scar on the lower part 



9 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

*$** } +*$** $ * *$* *1* * $ *•* $* ^ ‘f*^ 1 tfr tfr t - ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft ft 

of her face, had always created the effect of an odd and 
challenging fascination, but the ice of those domineering 
brownish eyes had melted away and a furrow, deep and 
sorrowful, was now running across the high forehead 
toward the parted waves of her chestnut hair touched with 
gray. 

"I have so many questions to ask you,” she commenced 
and stopped short, looking at my hands and apparently 
expecting to see a letter. 

"I shall be delighted to answer all of them,” I mumbled 
awkwardly, hoping against hope she would spare both of 
us this purposeless ordeal. 

"When did you hear from Misha last?” 

She came close to me and I could not dodge her eyes. 

"Over a year ago,” I said in a voice that was not my 
own. 

"Couldn’t he get in touch with you during all that 
time?” 

"How could he? Don’t you realize that he was im- 
prisoned in the North, while the Dowager -Empress, Grand 
Duchess Olga, Grand Dukes Nicholas and Peter, and my- 
self with Xenia and the children were kept by the Soviets 
on our Crimean estates, in the far South.” 

"But didn’t you people at least try to send a trusted 
officer up North to bring you some news from Misha?” 

Send a "trusted officer” up North! A thing of that sort 
would have been certain to prove fatal to both Misha and 



io 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



ourselves. Nothing would have pleased the Soviets better 
than to be able to catch us attempting to communicate 
with the Czar or his brother. 

"So you mean to say,” she interrupted my laborious ex- 
planations, "that you are bringing me no news at all?” 

"None at all, for the simple reason that I myself know 
nothing further than what was published in the Soviet 
newspapers.” 

"I am surprised at you!” she exclaimed in anger. "The 
very idea of your believing those liars! No Russian, not 
even a maddened peasant, could have ever raised his hand 
against the man who had voluntarily refused to become 
Czar! Everybody realizes how noble it was on the part of 
my husband to abdicate right after his brother had ab- 
dicated and to give freedom of choice to his people. Had 
Misha ever cared about crown or power, he would have 
never married me, in the first place.” 

She continued in this vein at great length, repeating over 
and over the story of Misha’s abdication on March 15, 
1917, when, ignoring the wishes of the Czar and the ad- 
vice of the moderate leaders of the revolution, he left 
Russia leaderless and retired with his wife to what he 
dreamed would be one endless idyll of uninterrupted hap- 
piness. 

My head ached. My ears rang. I nodded automatically, 
each time she would stop her pathetic speech waiting for 
my approval. Had I opened my mouth I would have 



II 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



screamed at her that it was not my fault that both her 
husband and his brother had mistaken the roar of a hysteri- 
cal mob for the voice of the Almighty. 

"You must have had a rough crossing,” she finally re- 
marked, noticing the state I was in. 

"I had. In fact, I have not closed my eyes at all since 
the moment I left Russia.” 

"Well, in such a case I shan’t keep you any longer. I 
suppose I shall see you very soon in London. Misha loves 
England and it will be great fun living there again.” 

I jumped up, grabbed my hat and ran. Considerations 
of politeness, eternal fear of hurting other people’s feel- 
ings, sympathy for this half-maddened woman — nothing 
mattered any more. I craved to be alone. With the last 
ounce of strength left in my body I wanted to choke my 
past and everybody and everything that had any connec- 
tion with it. 



3 

Back in my cabin I poured myself a large glass of brandy 
and swallowed it in one gulp. Then I fell on the bunk 
and began to pray. But the liquor failed to produce the 
desired effect, while the familiar words beaten into me 
during my years of infancy sounded utterly false, re- 
minding me of those white-bearded bishops who used to 
bless the slaughter-bound regiments of youngsters with 
their miraculous icons. 



12 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



The balance of the voyage — it took us thirty-six hours 
more to reach the coast of Italy — is a blank in my memory. 
I suppose I talked and moved about and complimented 
my hosts on the beauty of their cruiser, but all that was 
done in a stupor. Something else, besides antiquated 
Slavonic prayers, three-starred brandy and clean-shaven 
Britishers, was necessary to shake up my clogged brain 
and make me forget the nightmares of the past. That 
"something else” occurred at the station of Taranto, a few 
moments before the Paris Express pulled out. 

A short, fat, middle-aged lazzarone stopped in front of 
my window and began to sing in a frightful off-key voice 
"O Sole Mio,” it being his warning to the passengers of 
the express that the longer the delay in their contribution 
to the Cause of Art the harsher their punishment would be. 

"Things can’t be so bad in this part of the world,” I 
said aloud in Italian though addressing mostly myself, "if 
these people still warble 'O Sole Mio.’” 

The singer flashed a radiant smile at me, stepped back a 
few paces, took off his hat and bowed from the hips. 

"The handsome forestiere is right, a thousand times 
right,” he said dramatically. "Life is still beautiful in our 
divine Italy. A flask of good wine, the occhiata of a pretty 
girl, a few lire in one’s pocket — and may our merciful 
Lord take care of the dead. . . 

He stretched out a hand, gracefully caught the coin, 
and that was all. The whistle blew, and the train started 



13 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



on its way past the white and red station buildings toward 
the orange groves and vineyards that lay in the green 
valleys, basking in the mellow rays of an Italian sunset. 

The nature of the thing that happened to me at that 
moment — the whole metamorphosis occurred in less than 
a second — will never be explained. Perhaps it was nothing 
more than a healthy reaction. Perhaps I had reached a 
point beyond which no human can suffer and live. I know 
only that an unbelievable feeling of overwhelming happi- 
ness, coming from nowhere and maybe hideous under the 
circumstances, suddenly shot through my system with the 
force of an electric charge. "I am free at last!” I uttered 
these words before I had a chance to realize their full 
meaning. Then I felt like running through the train and 
finding someone to whom I could tell that my fifty years 
of grand-ducal enslavement, misery, terror and chaos 
were over, that I was now joining the world of men and 
women who live from day to day not giving a hang about 
the weighty problems of Empire. 

Rushing through the door of the compartment I saw a 
pad of telegram blanks stuck in a rack, and this at once 
gave me an idea as to the way in which I could assert my 
newly acquired freedom. I decided to wire to all my rela- 
tives and friends in Rome that I would not be able to stop 
in their city on account of some "very important matters” 
demanding my immediate presence in Paris. I was afraid 
that even a few hours spent with our reigning Italian rela- 

14 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



tives would destroy my precious feeling of carefree happi- 
ness because the King no doubt would be extremely anx- 
ious to learn the details of Nicky’s end while the Queen 
would bombard me with questions about the conditions 
in which I left her sisters Stana and Militza, the wives of 
my cousins Nicholas and Peter. 

"Be firm!” I said to myself as I scribbled a few hasty 
lines. "You are through with your past and you do not 
care to become a professional carrier of imperial hard-luck 
stories. No more palace luncheons for you. From now on 
you’ll eat in public restaurants, when and if you eat at 
all.” 

My telegrams written and dispatched, I made for the 
dining car, whistling a five-year-old French song and 
brazenly eyeing the astonished passengers who obviously 
thought that that poor Russian Grand Duke must have 
finally lost whatever was left of his mind. 

I have yet to meet a maitre d’hotel who has not worked 
as a busboy at the Ritz in Paris, at one time or another, 
so I was not surprised when the chief steward of the Paris 
Express made a thirty-foot dash for me with the expres- 
sion of a man who has found his long-lost brother. 

"I thought that Monseigneur would dine in his com- 
partment. I have prepared a special French menu which 
includes — ” 

"I don’t care what it includes,” I cut his staccato French 
short, "I’ll have some spaghetti and right here!” 



*5 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"That’s the spirit!” commented a husky American voice 
on my right. "We sailors should never fall for French 
menus.” 

I turned and recognized a well-known American ad- 
miral whom I had first met many years ago during my stay 
in the Orient. Next moment we were shouting at each 
other in a manner that might have suggested an approach- 
ing fisticuff to anyone not understanding English. Mem- 
ories of the long-forgotten windjammers, nights in the 
American Concession in Shanghai, our bitter rivalry for 
the heart of the same golden-haired girl in Hongkong, 
mutual friends in San Francisco, Washington and New- 
port, the relative merits of the harbors of Vancouver and 
Sydney — everything and everybody were reviewed be- 
tween loud bursts of continuous laughter and with the aid 
of two quarts of Chianti. 

Weather-beaten men have a peculiar tact of their own. 
Neither during the dinner nor afterwards in my compart- 
ment did this two-fisted sailor show an inkling of his un- 
derstanding of the tragic circumstances underlying my 
hysterical gayety. The unerring instinct of a rugged navi- 
gator told him that he was confronted with a shipwrecked 
craft and that no mention of the five fatal years that inter- 
vened between my last season in Newport and the present 
moment should be permitted to enter our conversation. 
Meeting him aboard this train and talking to him of the 
thousand and one things that could not have presented 
16 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



the slightest interest to anyone but the two of us amounted 
to a miraculous chance to pick up the thread of life where 
I had dropped it away back in my earlier days. 

I wished we could have stayed together as far as Paris 
but he had to get off in Rome. As we were shaking hands 
and promising to see each other next week in Paris, he 
touched my coat-pocket and put something heavy in there. 

"What is it?” I asked, slightly taken aback by this ges- 
ture. 

"Oh, it’s nothing,” he replied, turning to go. "Just a 
little trick that you may need some day. I hear there are 
lots of those war-crazed fellows crawling in the streets of 
Paris.” 



And he left before I could even ascertain the nature of 
the "little trick.” It was a gun. A .45 Colt. A manly gift 
from a manly admiral. 



4 

For the first time in my life I was arriving in Paris un- 
heralded and unexpected. No bemonocled representatives 
of the Russian Imperial Embassy awaited me on the plat- 
form of the Gare de Lyon and no gold-braided delegates 
of the Presidency of the French Republic rushed forth to 
escort me through the "special exit.” 

"Taxi or subway?” asked the blue-shirted porter and 
the ceremony of official reception was over. 



1 7 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



To be certain, fighting the dense noon traffic in a jumpy 
antediluvian cab was not nearly as spectacular as dashing 
down the Rue de Rivoli in a platinum-hooded Delauney- 
Belleville under a heavy guard of motorcycle police, but 
the thrill of having safely reached my goal made these 
petty inconveniences appear exhilarating and attractive. 
I was back among people who retained their ability to smile 
— and that was all I cared about! 

With eyes closed I could have known that I was driving 
through the streets of Paris, for not unlike all other capitals 
of the world it can always be recognized by its specific 
smell: raw leather in Berlin, fish-and-cheese in London, 
burned gasoline in New York, freshly baked bread in 
Paris. . . . No expensive perfume could have smelled bet- 
ter. Looking right and left for traces of the war, I dis- 
covered no signs of recent calamities, no changes, nothing 
unusual. Quite a few khaki-clad Americans and Britishers 
loafed on the open terraces of the cafes, but otherwise it 
was the same all-forgetting Paris, with its taxi-drivers 
cursing each other elaborately and eloquently, with its 
lackadaisical policemen half-asleep on their beats, with its 
ruddy elderly gentlemen following the legs of the fast- 
walking midinettes with a languorous look. 

Another turn into a street crowded with cars, and my 
gray-haired driver brought his rickety ark to a sharp 
halt. 

“What is the matter?” I exclaimed absent-mindedly. 

18 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



"Nothing is the matter,” he answered grumpily, "but 
didn’t you say the Ritz?” 

The Ritz! To think that but five days ago I was still 
sitting in that same house of mine in the Crimea where for 
a period of over thirteen months I had expected to be 
seized and shot almost every moment. 

Are you getting off here?” insisted the driver. 

You can bet your life on it!” I said with considerable 
feeling and jumping out of the cab with the alacrity of 
one pursued by the furies bumped headlong into a smartly 
dressed woman who was standing on the curb, apparently 
awaiting the arrival of her car. 

"Where are your eyes?” she hissed contemptuously. 

' So much beauty has blinded me, my dear Marthe,” I 
admitted meekly, recognizing the familiar features of my 
old friend Mme. Marthe Letellier, one of the reigning 
beauties of Paris. 

She looked at me sharply and turned deadly pale. She 
would have fainted right on the sidewalk had I not grasped 
her in my arms. 

Some water, quick!” I said to the bewildered porter. 
"What is it, Marthe? Are you not feeling well? Have you 
been ill recently?” 

She pushed me aside and said firmly: 

It’s a hoax. I know it’s a hoax. You have the voice and 
the face of Grand Duke Alexander but you couldn’t be 
he, you just couldn’t be!” 



1 9 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"Why, my dear Marthe • . 

"You are an impostor!” she continued angrily. "But you 
are playing a very dangerous game because everybody in 
Paris knows that Grand Duke Alexander was shot by the 
Bolsheviks several months ago. Why, I myself had a mass 
said for him in the Church of the Madeleine . . 

She spoke loudly and excitedly, and several passers-by 
stopped, attracted by this strange dialogue. The situation 
was becoming decidedly embarrassing. If I could not prove 
my identity to this friend of many years, what chance did 
I stand with strangers? 

"Would a diplomatic passport issued by the Allied Com- 
mand in the Crimea do, Marthe?” I asked laughingly, 
though in truth distinctly alarmed. 

"Yes, but I don’t believe you have one.” 

"Shall we continue this conversation in the lobby?” 

"All right, but I warn you once more, I don’t believe 
you. You are an impostor.” 

We settled down in two chairs near the reception desk, 
and my beautiful friend began a careful perusal of my 
papers: the diplomatic passport, the visa issued to me by 
the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, several letters ad- 
dressed to me by my relatives in London, etc. 

When she finished, she burst into tears and we had to 
have some more water. 

"I can never apologize enough for my rudeness,” she 



20 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



cried into her tiny laced handkerchief, "but you must 
understand how odd it is to meet someone you believed 
surely dead.” 

"Was it a nice mass you had said for me, Marthe?” 

"Oh, perfectly gorgeous. I had that beautiful Russian 
choir singing your favorite airs. And all your friends were 
present . . . every one of them . . . and then we talked 
about you the whole evening. ... I suppose you think 
it ridiculous?” 

"Not at all, Marthe,” I reassured her tenderly, "to the 
contrary, I must tell you frankly, I feel highly flattered 
by so much attention. But tell me, Marthe, what particu- 
lar airs did the choir sing?” 

She raised her tear-stained eyes, and then we both 
shrieked with laughter. I naturally wanted to learn the 
exact date of my assassination, and from what she told me 
I gathered that, not knowing that I had been saved in the 
Crimea by the German troops in the spring of last year, 
my Parisian friends decided that I had shared the fate of 
my brother-in-law. The names "Michael Alexandrovich” 
and "Alexander Michailovich” sounding somewhat similar 
to the French ear, the local papers had interpreted the 
Soviet report relating to the murder of the former as a 
confirmation of my own demise. 

"Wherever the mistake might have lain, the prayers of 
this establishment have been answered,” piously concluded 
the genial manager of the Ritz who joined our lively con- 



21 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



ference in the lobby, and I went upstairs feeling like a 
modern edition of Lazarus of Bethany. 



5 

The hotel was packed with all sorts of Allied plenipo- 
tentiaries and experts who had come to attend the Ver- 
sailles Conference and save mankind, accompanied by their 
wives, children, secretaries and friends. I had to be satis- 
fied with whatever was found for me, a cubbyhole so situ- 
ated as to permit its occupant to keep track of the number 
of corks popping in the restaurant downstairs. 

Two equally efficient bands — American and native — 
played in shifts throughout the night, and long before 
dawn, without leaving my bed, I learned by heart every 
new song dealing with the kind-hearted mother who lay 
dying in a shabby room in the lower New York East Side 
while her prodigal boy was working as an entertainer in 
a terribly, terribly wicked night club in Chicago. This 
overemphasis of the "mother theme” in modern music 
surprised me: before the war we, all of us, used to take the 
fact of our mothers’ existence for granted. 

Not that I had any particular grudge against the sac- 
charine sentimentalism of the American composers, but 
the oftener that word "mother” echoed through the cor- 
ridors of the Ritz, the clearer it became to me that I would 
not dare to dodge the mission entrusted to me by my 



22 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



mother-in-law. She made me swear that I would go at 
once to London and transmit to her sister, the Dowager- 
Queen Alexandra, the lengthy report of our experiences 
in the Crimea. I managed to escape a similar ordeal in 
Rome, thus disobeying the wishes of my cousins’ wives, 
but it would have been too beastly cruel to break the heart 
of a woman in her middle seventies who had lost all she 
possessed in this world with the exception of her passionate 
love for her sister. 

So London it had to be, for at least three days, allowing 
one day for a visit with Queen Alexandra, dedicating the 
second to my brother Michael Michailovich — who had 
lived in England since 1893 having been exiled from 
Russia in his early youth for marrying a commoner — and 
reserving an extra day for a none-too-pleasant reunion 
with those friendly British prophets who had always told 
me that we, the Romanoffs, were bound to come to an 
ignominious end. 

First of all, however, I had to think of my wardrobe. I 
could not go to England in my khaki blouse and I had 
brought no civilian clothes with me because I had none in 
Russia. In former years it was my habit to keep them in 
Paris, in my apartment in the Rue Anatole de la Forge. 
Shortly after the outbreak of the war I had told my secre- 
tary to advise my French landlord that I was obliged to 
give up the apartment and that I would appreciate his 
taking care of my personal things, furniture and several 

23 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

trunks containing my valuable numismatic collection 
until a moment when it would be possible to have the 
whole shipped to Russia. The latter opportunity failed 
to materialize but I had no reasons to question the honesty 
and the goodwill of my landlord. The fact that I had paid 
the rent promptly and accurately for a period of fourteen 
years — although I had never occupied my apartment for 
more than two weeks each year — gave me the right to 
count on his friendly cooperation. A disappointment, the 
first cruel disappointment in my New Life, was awaiting 
me in the Rue Anatole de la Forge. 

“The name of God be praised!” shrieked my chubby 
little landlord as I walked into his mahogany finished office. 
"What a treat for sore eyes! The good days are returning 
to our beautiful France! Jeanne, Jeanne, come quickly 
and see who is here.” 

Jeanne, his better and heavier half, rushed in breath- 
lessly. For a while we vied with each other in exclamations, 
superlatives and yells of delight. Then — business is business 
— he suggested that now that I was back I might become 
his "most distinguished tenant” again. I said I would be 
delighted to share the roof with such altogether fascinating 
people but that I feared my present strained finances would 
prevent me from resuming that position of distinction. 

He waved his hand deprecatingly: 

"His Imperial Highness is joking. Victorious France will 



2 4 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



see to it that her Noble Friends return into the possession 
of their very vast personal fortunes.” 

He pronounced that word "vast” in tones of awe and 
admiration. 

"Let us hope you are right,” I said quietly, "but in the 
meanwhile I better keep on the safe side and not assume 
too heavy obligations.” 

"Nonsense, nonsense!” he said warmly. "His Imperial 
Highness need not worry about that. If the worst comes 
to the worst, his numismatic collection alone is worth a 
great deal of money.” 

The last remark alarmed me. It meant that my trunks 
had been opened and their contents appraised by some 
expert. 

"I am glad you brought up that subject,” I remarked 
in a manner as casual as possible. "I am about to leave for 
London and I think I would like to have you send my 
trunks to the Ritz. I shall decide upon my return as to 
what should be done with the furniture. Possibly I may, 
after all, take a chance at renting my old apartment.” 

A pause ensued, filled by a significant exchange of 
glances between the landlord and his wife. The latter sud- 
denly remembered that she had to do a bit of shopping 
downtown. She hoped to see me again very soon. So did I. 

"Monseigneur may recall,” began the landlord when we 
were left alone, "that I received my last check from Russia 
on January first, nineteen-fourteen.” 



2 5 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"That’s correct. Covering, I presume, the rental until 
December thirty-first, nineteen-fifteen.” 

"Exactly!” He seemed overjoyed by my memory. "In 
other words, now that Monseigneur is here, having escaped 
the bullets of savage assassins, may I have the honor of 
presenting the bill covering the three years from January 
first, nineteen-fifteen, until December thirty-first, nine- 
teen-eighteen?” 

I could hardly believe my ears. 

"But you surely must have received a letter from my 
secretary written by him in the early fall of nineteen- 
fourteen and advising you that I would not be able to re- 
new the lease.” 

"I have never received any such letter!” His smile dis- 
appeared and his accents became harsh. "I suppose Mon- 
seigneur has kept a copy?” 

"You are joking. You do not think that having left my 
country in the way I did I was able to carry with me any 
correspondence at all, let alone copies of my secretary’s 
letters?” 

He sighed: 

"How very regrettable. Had Monseigneur been able to 
produce that copy I would have been only too glad to 
overlook the fact that I never received his secretary’s 
letter!” 

"But now?” 

"Now I must insist on getting this bill settled in full.” 

26 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



There was no sense in continuing this conversation. I 
was beaten and I knew it. The law was on his side. 

"All right,” I said, getting up, "I shall settle your bill 
on my return from London. Will you send my trunks to 
the Ritz before noon?” 

He got up too. 

"I shall be delighted to send your trunks to the Ritz 
right away provided the manager of the hotel is instructed 
to settle this bill.” 

"But don’t you realize that in order to pay your out- 
rageous bill I must first raise some money and I cannot 
raise any until I get back my numismatic collection.” 

"I regret,” he said dryly, "but I cannot entertain His 
Imperial Highness’ proposition.” 

I went out in a haze. What was I to do? It all depended 
now on the amount of francs I would be able to get in ex- 
change for my German marks and Austrian crowns be- 
cause, having arrived from a part of Russia recently oc- 
cupied by the Central Powers, I had brought no other 
money with me. "124,580 francs” read the total of the 
landlord’s bill (so thorough was he in his unabashed rapac- 
ity that he even added interest for three years at six per- 
cent) , and I doubted whether my bunch of blue and 
yellow paper would fetch that many francs. I dared not 
stop at a bank from fear of learning the awful truth too 
soon and I decided to put my fate and my German marks 

*7 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



and Austrian crowns into the hands of the manager of the 
Ritz. 

Walking slowly down the Champs-Elysees, past the 
crowded cafes and gayly bedecked buildings, I was think- 
ing of my own stupidity and my heart was choking with 
bitterness. Whose fault was it that, having handled during 
my lifetime millions of dollars, pounds and francs, I should 
be caught practically empty-handed now when I needed 
money more than ever before? How many times had I 
been warned by my friends in London and New York! 
How many times, both before and during the war, did 
they tell me that I should keep at least a quarter of my 
fortune somewhere outside of Russia, preferably outside 
of Europe! The clear, sharp eyes and firm chin of one 
of them — a famous American industrialist — flashed 
through my mind. In the course of our last meeting in St. 
Petersburg in 19 ij, when I helped expedite the affairs of 
his concern in Russia, he had asked me point-blank: "Have 
you got any money outside of Russia?” "How could I?” 
I answered. "If the news of it reached the public it might 
create a panic in the market.” "Market be d — d!” he 
shouted angrily. "Why don’t you think of your children? 
Remember, a day may come when you will regret your 
patriotic scruples!” He spent several hours with me that 
day begging me to let him invest at least a few hundred 
thousand dollars in America for me, but I turned down 
his offer. "I stand and fall with Russia,” I said dramati- 

28 



LAZARUS COMES FORTH 



cally. What a fool I was! The Russia I talked of did fall 
but I was still "standing” . . . standing in the center of 
the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in Paris and racking my 
brain as to where to raise enough money to pay my land- 
lord’s bill. . . . 



29 






CHAPTER TWO 
THE RITZ SAGA 

i 

"The larger the size of the banknotes, the smaller their 
actual value,” remarked the manager of the Ritz sen- 
tentiously, spreading my thick bunches of water-colored 
and be-eagled bills all over his massive desk. 

I nodded understandingly. The Russian five-hundred- 
rouble bills, about the "biggest thing” ever turned out by 
any treasury, would have fetched at this moment even 
less than these glamorous blue and yellow reminders of 
Kaiserdom and the Holy Roman Empire could. 

He took a pencil, sharpened it methodically and began 
to jot down rows upon rows of menacing figures. I 
watched his calculations, silent and breathless. The Central 
European moneys not being as yet officially quoted on the 
Paris Stock Exchange, he had to fight his way out of the 
jungle of marks and crowns via the pound and the dollar. 
This took time and required considerable telephoning. 

At the end of what seemed to me hours the experts came 
to the conclusion that I was entitled to one hundred fifty 
thousand francs for my fine assortment of "spread” and 



30 



THE RITZ SAGA 



"half -spread” eagles. More than enough to pay the land- 
lord’s bill and cover the cost of my voyage to England. 

"It’s a shame,” sighed the manager, "a horrible shame! 
To think that but five short years ago you would have 
got at least a couple of millions. I would advise you to re- 
ject this ridiculous offer and wait till Europe recovers its 
senses, even if it takes several months.” 

"It will take several months,” I said cheerfully, "prob- 
ably a little longer. That is why I shall accept the offer of 
your bankers. I would much rather wait for the day when 
Europe recovers its senses in London where I can dispose 
of my numismatic collection. Is there an eight o’clock 
train leaving from the Gare du Nord?” 

"Yes, of course. But are your papers in order?” 

"What do you mean, papers?” 

"Your passport, your British visa.” 

"Do I need one?” 

The manager smiled: 

"You will discover by and by that it is a different world 
from the one you knew in nineteen-fourteen. I think you 
had better go to the British Passport Bureau at once if 
you expect to leave tonight. Better still, let me have your 
passport and our porter shall attend to the rest.” 

"No, thanks,” I said, remembering that I wanted to see 
Lord Derby anyway. "I shall go straight to the British 
Ambassador. He happens to be an old friend of mine.” 

On my way to the British Embassy — just a few minutes’ 



31 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

walk from the Ritz — I prepared my speech for Lord 
Derby’s benefit. I decided to talk to him plainly and 
frankly because a man of his influence in the councils of 
the Conservative Party appeared particularly fitted to ad- 
vise me as to whom I should see while in London. I knew 
him quite well. Before the war we used to meet in various 
clubs, both in England and on the Continent. During the 
war we were in a constant exchange of messages when in 
his capacity of Secretary of War he was providing me with 
airplanes and flying instructors. He knew of the many 
sacrifices made by the Russian Army in 1914-1916 and I 
did not doubt that he would be only too glad to help me 
open his Government’s eyes on the real portent of the 
Bolshevik danger. 

I was not disappointed. I found him eager and anxious 
to listen to a viva-voce report of what had happened to 
that much-becried Russian "steam-roller.” He agreed with 
me whole-heartedly that the members of Lloyd George’s 
coalition cabinet should right away be given first-hand in- 
formation on the conditions in Russia, in any event before 
they put their feet under the oblong table in the V ersailles 
Palace. 

"But the trouble is,” said Lord Derby, "that there are 
as many opinions about the correct thing to do in Russia 
as there are Russians arriving in London. I personally be- 
lieve every word you say, but who is going to persuade my 
chiefs? Is there anyone among your people who possesses 



32 




THE KING AND QUEEN OF ITALY 

They failed to get their quota of the Romanoffs 








jr 




3Sr 


wt* 







International News Photo 



ONLY YESTERDAY 

King George V and Queen Mary of England, the two "affectionate cousins” of Grand Duke 
Alexander, as they appeared at the brilliant masquerade ball in Devonshire House in 1897 



THE RITZ SAGA 



sufficient authority to make his voice audible in Downing 
Street and who at the same time could not be accused of 
extreme political bias?” 

This was to the point. I readily admitted that his chiefs 
would be justified in questioning the statements of a 
Romanoff. 

"Fortunately,” I explained, “I have no intention of try- 
ing to influence their judgment. All I care about is to 
provide them with authentic data which they could very 
easily verify.” 

"Authentic data!” he repeated sadly. "Is there such a 
thing as authentic data about Russia? And besides, you 
are here in Paris while all the explaining will have to be 
done in London.” 

"But I am leaving for London tonight.” 

"Are you?” 

"Certainly. I promised my mother-in-law that I would 
go and see the Dowager-Queen at once.” 

All of a sudden he became pensive. The famous jovial 
"Derby smile,” so well known to the multitudes of British 
racetrack fans, abruptly left his ruddy face, giving way to 
a frown of undisguised concern. 

"My prospective voyage to England seems to disconcert 
you,” I said laughingly, though wondering at the same 
time what the matter could possibly be. 

"Much worse than that,” he answered, lowering his eyes, 
"it makes me feel downright unhappy!” 



33 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"Are you joking?” 

"I wish I were!” he exclaimed dejectedly. "I hoped to 
God I would be spared the necessity of going through this 
explanation but I suppose there is no other way. You must 
know the truth. This morning I received a telegram from 
the Foreign Office instructing me not to grant you a visa 
for the United Kingdom!” 

"But, Lord Derby — ” 

I stopped short. It was as though someone had suddenly 
told me that my name was not Alexander. I did not know 
what I could or should say. For no reason at ail I took out 
my passport and put it on the table. 

"There surely must be a misunderstanding somewhere,” 
I muttered incoherently, still hoping the smile would re- 
turn to Lord Derby’s face and that he would confess that 
he was merely playing an innocent joke on me. 

"None whatsoever,” he groaned in turn and picked up a 
telegram that lay on the top of a file in front of him. 
"Here it is. Black on white! No reasons given. No loop- 
holes left. Just orders. I do not mind telling you that this 
is the most painful duty I was ever called upon to perform 
since the very first day I entered the service.” 

"But, Lord Derby, how could you refuse the right to 
enter England to a man who is not only closely related to 
His Majesty the King but who has fought as well, has 
fought for nearly three years, for the common cause of 



34 



THE RITZ SAGA 



the Allies? Understand me clearly: I have no desire to 
force myself upon the hospitality of your country but I 
do believe that I am entitled at least to the courtesy of an 
explanation. What have I done to be blackballed by your 
Foreign Office? Since when has my presence in London be- 
come a menace to the interests of the British Common- 
wealth? And why, in the name of all the saints, did your 
Government bother to send a battle cruiser and rescue me 
from Russia if I am considered not fit even to land in 
England? The whole thing is hopelessly absurd!” 

"It is,” grimly confirmed Lord Derby, "more absurd 
than anything I have encountered so far in this office. 
You must understand, however, that an ambassador of His 
Britannic Majesty is not allowed to divulge the reasons 
guiding the decisions of the Foreign Office. As a gentleman 
to a gentleman, I would suggest you read the English 
newspapers.” 

"The English newspapers?” Now I felt completely puz- 
zled. "What have they to say about my trip to London? 
Why should they be opposed to me?” 

"They are not. As a matter of fact, they are writing 
nowadays of nothing except the growing unrest in Eng- 
land. The rising wave of Communism . . . the organiza- 
tion of Councils of Action by the workers . . . and all 
that sort of stuff. All of this makes the Foreign Office 
think that the arrival in London at this particular moment 
of a member of the Imperial Russian Family would be 



35 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



liable to cause a whole lot of unhealthy agitation and 
malicious rumors.” 

"And what about the venerable British doctrine of a 
safe refuge for any and all political exiles? What happened 
to that priceless possession of proud Albion?” 

He shrugged his massive shoulders and silently pointed 
toward the telegram on his desk. Orders! The orders of the 
Foreign Office had taken the place of that classical doc- 
trine! The country that in the past had extended the most 
liberal hospitality to all shades of anarchists and regicides 
now felt in duty bound to slam its doors in the face of His 
Britannic Majesty’s cousin. 

"This is, I suppose,” I said, extending my hand, “my 
farewell to the British Isles.” 

"Not necessarily. In a month or two things might 
brighten up and the Foreign Office might reconsider its 
present decision.” 

"Even so,” I concluded resignedly. "I think I shall re- 
main right where I am.” 

"Well,” remarked Lord Derby, "France is a beautiful 
country, isn’t it?” 

"A most attractive one, sir.” 

I wished I could tell him the story of the battle in the 
Rue Anatole de la Forge, because in the light of these new 
and truly startling developments the petty villainy of my 
little chubby landlord appeared quite pardonable, almost 
gentlemanly. 



36 



THE RITZ SAGA 



2 

To say to Lord Derby in tones of simulated indifference 
"I think I shall remain right where I am” presented no 
particular difficulty. Just a smile and a wave of the hand. 
It proved infinitely more troublesome to bring myself to 
the realization of the fact that I was actually forbidden 
to enter England — a kingdom ruled by my cousin, a coun- 
try where I had spent every summer for over twenty years, 
a land whose cause I had championed against Russian dip- 
lomats and German soldiers, the island that worshiped the 
names of all those sovereigns who had played such a part 
in my personal life. ... I thought of old Queen Victoria, 
visualizing her as I saw her for the last time, sitting in an 
oversized armchair in the Hotel Cimiez in Nice and talk- 
ing in that brisk concise fashion of hers of the overwhelm- 
ing tasks facing the future generations of Windsors and 
Romanoffs. I thought of our former traditional spring 
family reunions in Copenhagen where the Dowager-Queen 
Alexandra, then still the Princess of Wales, invariably 
greeted us aboard her yacht, surrounded by her children 
and extremely anxious to learn whether her son George 
had finally outgrown her nephew Nicky. I thought of 
the booming voice and the shaking shoulders of Uncle 
Bertie, King Edward VII, and of the forceful way in 
which he used to orate on the subject of the "mutual 



37 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

advantages” to be derived by us from a Russo-British 
Alliance. 

And then I thought of the exiled Kaiser! I could not 
help thinking of him because, although stretched on my 
bed in the Ritz Hotel in Paris, I could hear that derisive, 
throaty, slightly hysterical laughter with which the news 
of my disgrace would be certain to be welcomed in the 
Castle of Doom. His Russian cousins! Those poor nitwits 
who had imagined they could outsmart the greatest of the 
Hohenzollerns and whose blind adoration for England 
wound up in a refusal of a visa to spend even three short 
days in London! Didn’t he tell them so? Didn’t he con- 
stantly try to impress on the "fatheads” that they should 
cherish his friendship because no good could possibly come 
of their idiotic flirtation with "London grocers” and 
"Devonshire milkmen”? 

Bitter and chaotic as were these galloping thoughts, they 
helped me reach one sensible decision. I realized that I 
should keep my interview with Lord Derby secret from 
the Dowager-Queen. She was obviously powerless to inter- 
fere with the decisions of the Foreign Office, so why break 
the old lady’s heart? The first thing she would try to do 
would be to summon her son, while he in turn would have 
to inform her that there are times when even a King of 
England cannot smuggle a Russian Grand Duke into Lon- 
don. I sat down and wrote two letters, one to the Crimea 
to my mother-in-law telling her the truth, another to 

38 



THE RITZ SAGA 

London, to Her Majesty, describing in detail the situation 
of her surviving Russian relatives and begging to be for- 
given for not coming to England. "The Versailles Con- 
ference is about to open and I am very anxious, my dear 
aunt, not to miss an opportunity of talking to the Allied 
statesmen.” This alibi sounded sufficiently plausible to im- 
press a venerable gray-haired woman who was naturally 
still thinking of me in terms of my pre-debacle grandeur. 
For one thing, no other nephew of hers had ever had his 
trunks seized for non-payment of rent. 

'C- '. 

3 

For the next two months I led what in the parlance of 
the police reporters could be described as a "double ex- 
istence.” I say "for two months” because that’s exactly 
how long my money lasted. 

Upstairs in my cubbyhole, I brooded and wrote letters, 
letters to statesmen about the "situation of Russia,” letters 
to relatives about the cost of living in Paris, letters to 
friends on How It Feels To Be Poor. 

Downstairs, in the restaurant, I walked with head up, 
chest out, smiling, joking and generally participating in 
that fascinating "Armistice Game” which consisted in pre- 
tending that nothing at all had happened between August 
i, 1914, and November 11, 1918, and that life was going 
on as usual. 



39 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Head waiters were rushing to and fro, guiding the olive- 
skinned Indian rajahs and heavily bejeweled women to the 
"very best table in the Ritz.” 

Tall blond clear-eyed American girls trotted with their 
polo-pony gait and laughed contagiously over their Mar- 
tinis. 

Flat-chested, narrow-hipped young men of doubtful 
nationality came in droves to enjoy the music of the cele- 
brated orchestra and admire the diamonds of the sturdy 
Spanish dowagers. 

"Second violins” of the Versailles Conference spent 
hours over the luncheon table, overawing the bewildered 
busboys and explaining in both speech and pantomime 
how that Welsh Magician Lloyd George was going to twist 
Clemenceau around his little finger. 

Uniforms ranged from the subdued khaki of the British 
to the fantastic plumes and feathers on the enormous hats 
of the unsung heroes of Portugal, and nowhere on earth, 
with the exception of a circus parade, could one have ob- 
served such a hodge-podge of medals as those bestowed 
upon their wearers by the victorious governments of 
Montenegro and San Marino. 

All of this shrieked, drank, sang off-key and tried to 
forget. One had to accept it without reservations or walk 
out in disgust. I accepted it and did everything prescribed 
by the scenario. Sighed over the good old days with the 
head waiter who knew I could not tip him any more. 



40 



THE RITZ SAGA 

Distributed autographs to the sweet elderly ladies who 
dropped in at the Ritz because they were told it was full 
of vice. Talked to the visiting American journalists who 
had written their stories about me several days before 
meeting me. And listened to the crazy theories as to how 
the Bolsheviks could be exterminated, advanced by miscel- 
laneous persons whose friends were late in keeping their 
appointments. 

Almost every minute I bumped into this or that one of 
my former Parisian acquaintances, and invitations to cock- 
tail parties and dinners followed in rapid succession. The 
passing of five years had deprived our relations of any 
meaning whatsoever but it apparently sounded nice to be 
able to say next morning: "And then we had with us that 
poor Russian Grand Duke. My dear, it’s simply thrilling! 
The man has lost every one of his brothers and cous- 
ins!” 

In truth, up to that time — the middle of January, 1919 
— I did not know myself whether I had or had not lost 
"every one” of my brothers and cousins. Since the previous 
spring I had had no news about my brothers Nicholas and 
George, who were imprisoned in St. Petersburg, and I was 
still hoping that my youngest brother Sergei might have 
escaped death in Siberia. Several other members of our 
formerly numerous clan seemed to have disappeared alto- 
gether, and the revolution had taught me that the absence 
of news invariably means bad news. 



41 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



One morning — it must have been my third week in Paris 
— while sitting in the palm garden I noticed a young Brit- 
ish officer whose face looked more than familiar. I watched 
him for several minutes, searching my mind for names, 
and then realized with a start that it was none other than 
Grand Duke Dimitry, the son of my cousin Paul. It was 
odd to see a Russian Grand Duke wearing the uniform 
of an alien nation but the rescued ones cannot be choosers: 
Dimitry owed his life and his splendidly tailored khaki 
tunic to what had struck his family two years before as 
the "cruel injustice” of the Czar. Exiled to Persia for his 
participation in the murder of Rasputin, he was thus able 
not only to escape the foul atmosphere of pre-revolution- 
ary St. Petersburg but to save his life from the Bolsheviks 
and join the British forces operating in Mesopotamia. It 
was the first time I had seen him since th^t night in De- 
cember, 1916, when, after pleading his case with Nicky, 
I put him aboard a southbound train. Looking at him 
now, tall, strong and more handsome than ever, I had to 
smile at the thought of the grief evidenced by his family 
on that occasion. Had the Czar concurred in their opinion 
that the young man should be let go scot-free, Dimitry 
would not have been standing in the lobby of the Ritz in 
January, 1919, gleaning the admiration of women, his 
whole life before him. 



42 



THE RITZ SAGA 



4 

With everyone predicting that the Government of the 
United States would be called upon to exercise a sort of 
benevolent dictatorship over the whole of Europe, I was 
naturally interested in renewing and cultivating my 
friendships among the members of the American delega- 
tion. Most of them were men of excellent intentions, proud 
of their victory, touched by the misery of Europe and 
firm believers in the ultimate triumph of righteousness. 
They talked eloquently, shook hands vigorously and pos- 
sessed an unlimited amount of cheerfulness. My friend 
General Charles G. Dawes constituted a minority of one 
in that group of inveterate optimists, maintaining as he 
did that the "real” trouble lay ahead and that no amount 
of noble talk could atone for the disappearance of ten mil- 
lion able-bodied men. Had the Versailles Mighty been 
willing to listen to his wisdom, they would have cooked up 
a much better treaty. Had I myself been clever enough 
to follow his friendly advice, I should have been spared a 
great deal of unnecessary humiliation. 

"Don’t even try to see the Mighty,” he said to me in 
his refreshingly plain fashion, "they won’t receive you, 
they’ve got no use for fallen men.” 

"Don’t mind Dawes,” said the cheer leaders, "he is just 
naturally gloomy. And do not waste your time with the 



43 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Europeans. The man for you to see is Lansing. Write him 
a letter and you’ll get somewhere.” 

People who wish to be deceived are easy dupes. On Jan- 
uary 9, 1919, I forwarded a letter to Secretary Lansing 
asking him for the privilege of an appointment and stating 
that I expected to remain in Paris but a short time. The 
latter idea was forced on me by my American friends who 
explained that it was an "old Washington custom” unsur- 
passed in efficiency. 

A week passed. On January 16, I received the following 
answer from Secretary Lansing: 

The Grand Duke Alexander 

Hotel Ritz 

Paris 

Sir, 

I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of January 9 th. 
regarding an appointment which you desired to make with me 
and regret that owing to the receipt of information to the effect 
that you were leaving the city immediately, no reply was made 
to the letter in question. 

At the present time, however, it is unfortunately impossible 
for me to make definite appointments inasmuch as my time is 
necessarily reserved for official conferences. 

I shall be glad to notify you in the event that it is possible 
for me to arrange a meeting with you. 

I have the honour to be, Sir, 
sincerely yours 

Robert Lansing 



44 



THE RITZ SAGA 



Needless to add, the "event” Mr. Lansing was hoping for 
never arrived. The cheer leaders shook their heads and said 
in chorus: 

"It’s only natural. Lansing could not have replied in any 
other fashion.” 

I opened my mouth wide. 

"But it was your own advice.” 

"So it was, but we were mistaken. The thing for you 
to do is to write a good letter to the President.” 

"What do you mean, a good letter?” 

"One that will convey to him the idea of your thor- 
oughly unbiased point of view and of your anxiety to tell 
the truth and nothing but the truth.” 

"Do you think he will see me?” 

"We know he will.” 

General Dawes swore and said I was wasting a lot of 
time that could be otherwise profitably spent on the golf 
links of St. -Cloud. Once more I disobeyed that man of 
clear vision and, instead of putting on my plus-fours, 
locked myself in a stuffy room and sweated out a letter to 
President Wilson. 



President Wilson 
Paris 

My dear sir, J anua T 2 7th, 1919 

I would like to meet you and talk to you as man to man. 
Forget that I am a Russian Grand Duke. Remember only that 
I am a Russian whose sole aim is to help his country. 

45 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Being a great believer in Divine Justice, I see in you not only 
the President of the United States but a real Christian who is 
endeavoring to establish Eternal Peace on earth. 

I belong to no party. I never did. Were I to label my political 
opinions I should say that I have always been a liberal and 
always saw the solution of all our ills in the universal triumph 
of a sane Democracy built on the principles of the Gospel. 

I have spent as strenuous a life as any man, surviving three 
wars and three revolutions, and for a period of six months I 
have been imprisoned by the Bolsheviks. Through all of it I 
saw the different ways in which Minority deceives Majority and 
thus creates an ever increasing danger to the future of hu- 
manity. 

You, sir, are occupying today a position in which no human 
has been placed in the whole history of Christendom. The peo- 
ples of all countries are looking toward you and depending on 
you for their salvation. That is why I am addressing you. Should 
you choose so, you may help the one hundred and sixty million 
Russians to set up a truly free Russia, free from the inequalities 
of both the past and the present. Should you remain silent, how- 
ever, you will leave them struggling among the debris of moral 
and physical collapse. 

Do not refuse to see me. I am sure you will be interested to 
hear what I have to say. I am asking for just a few minutes of 
your time. 

Once more permit me to tell you that this letter is written 
not by a Grand Duke but by just a Russian. 

I remain 

sincerely yours 

Alexander 

Two days later I received the following answer to my 
letter: 



46 



THE RITZ SAGA 



Grand Duke Alexander 

Hotel Ritz 

Paris 



My dear sir, Paris > a8th J anua, T * 9*9 

The President asks me to acknowledge receipt of your recent 
letter and to thank you for it. It would be a pleasure for him 
to see you and talk over with you the Russian conditions if any 
opportunity should offer itself, but his time is at present so com- 
pletely taken up with the business of the Peace Conference that 
there is really no hour of the day which he can call his own and 
he is obliged to forego engagements of this kind. 

With much regret, 

Sincerely Yours 

Gilbert F. Chase 
Confidential Secretary to the President 



I must admit I was not too surprised. Neither were my 
American "advisers”! They smiled wisely and said: 

"You realize, of course, what this means?” 

"I do. It means that the President does not wish to see 
me. In a measure I don’t blame him. Why should he com- 
promise the American Government by holding open meet- 
ings with a Romanoff?” 

"How could you be so naive!” They gave me a look 
of pity and reproach. "Can’t you read this line?” 

"I can. It says — 'and he is obliged to forego engagements 
of this kind.’” 

"Why don’t you emphasize the last two words — this 
kind? Can’t you decipher even this?” 



47 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

"I’ll be damned if I can.” 

“It means — Colonel House! Colonel House! Do you 
understand now, you simple Peter? It means that all the 
engagements of this kind are being passed on by the Presi- 
dent to Colonel House.” 

“But why couldn’t the President’s secretary say so in his 
letter?” 

After the loud guffaws caused by this question had sub- 
sided I was told that, in the first place, I would never make 
a good politician and that, in the second place, I should try 
to see Colonel House right away, a suggestion I flatly re- 
fused to follow. I had met the good Colonel socially on a 
previous occasion and knew that a "secret conference 
with him would enhance neither his world-wide reputation 
as a modern Sphinx nor my somewhat doubtful standing 
as a politician. I was permanently through with writing 
letters and soliciting appointments. Arthur Balfour, For- 
eign Secretary of Great Britain, was the only remaining 
Versailles Mighty I cared to see. Not so much for the sake 
of “opening” his eyes on Russia — a job of this magnitude 
would have required a dozen eye openers — as for the pur- 
pose of asking him point-blank: “What have I done to be 
forbidden to enter England?” I had received a message 
from the Dowager-Queen who expressed her utter dis- 
pleasure at my “unwillingness” to visit Marlborough House 
“if only for a week-end,” and my repertory of white lies 
being pretty well exhausted by so much letter-writing, I 

48 




International News Photo 

THE KING AND QUEEN OF DENMARK 

They too participated in the spring reunions in Copenhagen 





International News Photo 



THE PRINCE OF WALES 

Faulkner and Hemingway mean more than just two names to him 



THE RITZ SAGA 



wanted to enlist Balfour’s assistance in concocting further 
alibis. 

"Mr. Balfour would much rather see you in the privacy 
of his hotel,” said his very condescending secretary who 
was obviously annoyed by my determination to disturb 
his master’s peace of mind. I answered that I did not give 
a hang about the premises which were to serve as a setting 
for our meeting, provided the celebrated philosopher and 
statesman kept his appointment. Accordingly I announced 
my name to the clerk downstairs five minutes in advance 
of the given hour. Stepping out of the elevator on Bal- 
four’s floor I saw the lanky sloppy figure of Great Britain’s 
Foreign Secretary running for dear life down the corridor 
toward the "fire exit.” For a second I felt like calling after 
him, but then I thought better of it. After all, we all have 
our little peculiarities and Balfour’s strangeness may have 
consisted in taking light exercises in the corridors of 
Parisian hotels. The secretary’s face, flushed and dismayed, 
told me a different story. 

"Mr. Balfour deeply regrets that a conference of the ut- 
most importance is depriving him of the pleasure of talk- 
ing to Your Imperial Highness. He has instructed me to 
assure you that I will transmit to him, word for word, 
whatever you may wish to say.” 

The poor chap was stuttering and stammering. I think 
he was slightly ashamed of the behavior of his master. I 
smiled and made for the door. 



49 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



“Won’t you leave a message for Mr. Balfour?” he asked 
almost beggingly. 

“Yes,” I said, “by all means. Tell him that a man of his 
age should use the elevator.” 



50 






CHAPTER THREE 
A NUMISMAT SETTLES HIS BILLS 

i 

There is no better cure for imaginary troubles than the 
necessity to fight real ones. I would have grieved for 
months, thinking of Balfour and Wilson and Lansing, had 
it not been for the management of the Hotel Ritz, my 
tailor, my haberdasher and my shoemaker. I owed them 
money. They wanted to be paid. This meant real trouble 
overshadowing the Russian policy of the triumphant Allies. 

I could not get any money in Paris, a city where I had 
always been on the giving end. I could have gotten some in 
London but the British Government would not let me go 
there. So I had to think and think fast: each morning 
brought a heap of bills accompanied by letters, nicely 
worded but leaving no doubt as to the firm determination 
of their signatories. Had anyone entered my room at that 
time and seen the strange-looking charts on my writing 
table, I might have spent the rest of my life in an insane 
asylum. My charts read as follows: 

i. Dorians from Heraclea at Chersonesus and Ionians 
from Miletus at Theodosia. About 650 b.c. Write letter to 

51 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



the fat Italian in Geneva. May cover one quarter of the 
Ritz bill. 

2. The Goths (250 a.d.), the Huns (3 76 a.d.), the 
Khazars (about 740 a.d.). Difficult to dispose of. Perhaps 
Boston. A week-end letter-cable may turn the trick. May 
get just enough to pay for the two new spring suits. 

3. Pharnaces (63 B.c.) . Commemorating his investiture 
with the Kingdom of Bosporus by Pompey. Shoemaker? 
Perhaps if that stuttering cheat in Rome is still alive. 

4. The Byzantine Greeks (1016 a.d.) and the Kipchaks 
(10 jo a.d.) . In normal times would have been more than 
enough to satisfy the Ritz and to cover Easter in Biarritz. 
Now extremely unlikely. Write to London, Geneva and 
New York. 

j. Macedonians. Eight and twelve Phoenician drachms. 
Probably the reign of Alexander I (498-454 B.c.). What 
was the name of that Englishman who wanted to pay any 
price for them to the heirs of Abdul-Hamid? Write a let- 
ter to our former Ambassador in Constantinople. He may 
recall it. If he does, I am all right. 

6. The Thessalian Confederacy (196-146 b.c.). Head 
of Zeus crowned with oak and Athena Itonia. Never 
amounted to much. Ferdinand would know the address of 
the possible purchaser but how to get to Ferdinand? In any 
event, not before peace is signed. At best won’t cover even 
the shoemaker. 

7. Corinth. Probably 500 b.c. The head of Athena. 



A NUMISMAT SETTLES HIS BILLS 



Bellerophon mounted on Pegasus and the Chimaera. Very 
beautiful like all I got through Abdul-Hamid but difficult 
to dispose of. If I get for both at least one tenth of what 
I paid for them, my tailor shall be taken care of 100%. 

8. Asia Minor. The electrum of Lydia (probably 700 
B.c.). Lots of them but all quite primitive, the obverse 
marked with lines. Took me three months of work in 
Trebizond and God knows how much money. But that’s 
not an argument for Geneva. Sure to sell it but will just 
about cover the tip to Olivier downstairs. 

9. Hispania (probably 350 b.c.). The Phocsean drachm 
and the drachm of Emporiae. Had no business to buy them 
in the first place. No one could chase the Greeks all around 
the world. Any price will do, if it’s even the price of a 
wagon-lit compartment to Biarritz. 

z 

No, I was not delirious. I was merely jotting down for 
my own guidance various data which had to do with my 
numismatic collection. It seemed strange that just because 
a few Dorian traders, dissatisfied with the conditions ex- 
isting in Heraclea in 6 50 B.c., had set sail for lands un- 
known and had settled on the southern coast of the future 
Russian Empire, the management of the Hotel Ritz in 
Paris should be paid in full for the rooms occupied by 

53 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

Grand Duke Alexander in January, 1919 a.d., but the 
connection between these two events of the history of 
mankind was obvious and logical. Had the Dorians stayed 
at home, there would have been no ancient Greek coins, 
no vases, no statues buried in the soil of the Crimea, and I 
would not have been interested in undertaking my costly 
archaeological excavations, first in the neighborhood of my 
own estate of Ay-Todor, later in Trebizond and elsewhere 
along the coast of Asia Minor. 

It was stranger still that the only thing which enabled 
me to pay my bills in Paris and assured me of a short 
breathing spell should be precisely that which had always 
been considered "raving insanity” and a "costly toy” of an 
Imperial ne’er-do-well. Looking over my charts, I remem- 
bered the words of my father: "Just think, Sandro, of the 
opportunities you are missing. Why, if you would invest 
but a fraction of what it costs you to dig in the Crimean 
soil into sound preferred stocks and government bonds, 
you would double your annual income and never be in 
need of cash. If you don’t like stocks and bonds, buy oil 
lands, buy copper, buy manganese, buy real estate, but for 
Heaven’s sake stop spending good money on these bore- 
some old Greeks.” 

What would I have done in January, 1919, if I had fol- 
lowed the advice of my practical father and abandoned 
my archaeological excavations in the 1900’s? Stocks and 
bonds? I had bunches of them left in my safe-deposit vault 



54 



A NUMISMAT SETTLES HIS BILLS 



in St. Petersburg but even the Bolsheviks who stole them 
could not have disposed of them at any price because the 
concerns that issued the stocks had been destroyed by the 
revolution. Oil lands? Copper? Manganese? Real estate? 
I had all of that but there was no way to persuade a tailor 
of the Rue du Faubourg St.-Honore that he should ex- 
change a pair of flannel trousers for the deed to my apart- 
ment houses in St. Petersburg or to my oil lands in the 
Caucasus. 

It pays to be insane, I said to myself with great feeling. 
No matter how little I was going to get for my Phoenician 
drachms, my Athenas and Bellerophons, I was going to get 
something, perhaps enough to keep faith with my creditors 
and laugh at the people who used to laugh at me. And on 
top of it, I still had my memories. No Soviet in the world 
could take from me the pleasure and the thrills of my 
archaeological adventures. 

My two summers spent in Trebizond where I lived sur- 
rounded by as queer a collection of humans as anyone 
might wish to meet. Nearsighted, gray-haired German 
professors brought by me from Berlin, who went about 
without reading a newspaper for eight months at a stretch 
and who were blissfully unaware of the latest changes in 
the world of politics but who could have guessed the rea- 
sons of the fall of the Thessalian Confederacy just by look- 
ing at a gold coin given to me by Czar Ferdinand of Bul- 
garia. 



55 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Ferdinand an4 Abdul-Hamid. The only two really 
colorful figures produced by the Near East in the twenti- 
eth century. Not great rulers but men of individuality. 
Ferdinand who wanted to be the Little White Father of 
all the Slavs and who had no peer in the art of diplomatic 
deceit. Abdul-Hamid, the "bloody” Sultan, who thought 
that either the Turks must eat the Armenians or the 
Armenians would wind up by swallowing the Turks. I 
never discussed politics with these two. We talked on 
subjects that cultivate friendship. Numismatics. French 
cuisine. The contradictions in the Old Testament. Only 
once did Abdul-Hamid volunteer his opinion on what the 
Russian Czar was facing but on that occasion he spoke 
as a learned historian. His argument was that no dynasty, 
whether European or Oriental, had ever been known to 
survive for more than three hundred years. "Nineteen- 
thirteen! From then on things will become dangerous for 
your family,” he said in his excellent French. I thanked 
him for the warning and we proceeded with our usual 
exchange of gifts. I got several Macedonian coins, he a huge 
assortment of Crimean pears, peaches and grapes. Accord- 
ing to the European and American editorial writers, he was 
a monster, a bloodthirsty tyrant, a sadist. I personally 
knew him as an elderly gentleman who bowed to no one 
in his knowledge of numismatics and his appreciation of 
baby-lamb pilaff and stuffed eggplant. To me as to all 
people who prefer Life to Liberty an entertaining monster 

56 



A NUMISMAT SETTLES HIS BILLS 



is a worth-while friend, a sentimental bore a mortal enemy. 
Both Abdul-Hamid and Ferdinand were highly entertain- 
ing, even if the former did slaughter a great many of his 
subjects and the latter did sell out the Great-Cause-of- 
Democracy to the Kaiser. 



3 

I wished I could gather the numismatic collectors in my 
room, open my trunk and say: "Now listen carefully, 
gentlemen. You see this beautiful Alexander the Great 
coin? It was found by me in August, nineteen-hundred- 
three, in a grave on the spot where ancient Chersonesus 
stood. The summer was frightfully hot and we had to do 
most of our digging at night. We would sleep from sunrise 
to sunset, have our breakfast at seven in the evening and 
then we would begin to work. For the first time in ten 
years, since the day of my cousin’s ascension to the throne, 
I was able to ignore the existence of St. Petersburg and 
its courtiers, politicians and revolutionaries. People who 
helped me were either hired Tartars who spoke practically 
no Russian at all or the great experts from Berlin. They 
cared little that I was a Grand Duke and a member of the 
Imperial Government. Tartars liked me because I liked 
to listen to the singsong of their prayers. German professors 
liked me because I gladly conceded that they knew every- 
thing while I myself knew nothing. At four in the morn- 



57 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



ing when the moon would disappear behind the mountains 
we would open a bottle of brandy, not Hennessy, not 
Martel, but Greek brandy, prepared in the way our Dorian 
friends used to distill it twenty-five centuries ago. Nights 
were awe-inspiring and so was the brandy. When we 
finally reached the bottom of that grave after six weeks 
of work I wanted to cry. I had hoped we would dig for 
a month more. Gentlemen, how much am I bid for this 
beautiful Alexander the Great?” 

I never delivered this speech. I simply wrote a letter 
to a dealer in Geneva and received his answer by return 
mail. He knew my collection and he did not doubt its 
authenticity. But he wanted me to understand that we 
were living in "hectic times.” He hoped I would appreciate 
his position. Nothing would have pleased him more than 
to pay me what my beautiful coin was really worth. It 
was breaking his heart to be obliged to propose an inade- 
quate price. 

It was an inadequate price. It represented about five 
percent of the pre-war catalogue price and less than one 
hundredth of one percent of what it had cost me. I ac- 
cepted this bid by straight telegram. My tailor was sitting 
downstairs in the lobby, waiting and hoping. 

Ten years later I saw in the London Times that among 
the different numismatic "items” displayed at a private 
exhibition was "one of the rarest Alexander the Great coins 
which formerly belonged to a member of the Russian Im- 



58 



A NUMISMAT SETTLES HIS BILLS 

>$. >t« >E % * >t* ******* * * *1* * * * * * * * ** * * * * *** * * * * * * * * * * * * *** 

perial Family and which was acquired by Mr. in 

Geneva for the staggering sum of ” 

There was a difference of two naughts between the 
price mentioned in the London Times and the price re- 
ceived by me in 1919. The blow was hard but it failed to 
shake me. I had learned a lot during the ten years that 
intervened between the two transactions. I am grateful 
to that dealer in Geneva: there was nothing to prevent 
him from paying me even less than he actually did. 

The bulk of my collection was sold at public auction, 
partly in Switzerland, partly in England. I was in a fright- 
ful hurry to lay my hands on some cash and, although I 
was not present, my anxiety must have been obvious to the 
bidders. One of them wrote me a long letter, assuring me 
that he was going to take good care of the souvenirs of my 
archaeological past. Everybody was happy. The manage- 
ment of the Ritz. The maitre d’hotel of the restaurant. 
The haberdasher. The tailor. The shoemaker. Even myself. 
I am still a numismat at heart. As my publishers would 
say: "Once a numismat . . .** 

For the time being I have to be satisfied with reading the 
catalogues and subscribing to the trade magazines. But 
should my bankers advise me some day that going through 
my account they had stumbled upon a balance in my 
favor, I would be in the market again. It is the best invest- 
ment — in case of a revolution. 



59 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



4 

Bills settled and a few francs left in my pocket, I 
breathed easier. For a while I did not have to sneak through 
the lobby with the feeling of having robbed the stockhold- 
ers of the Ritz. I thought I should catch up with my read- 
ing and decided to divide my afternoons between the 
Bibliotheque Nationale and the Chambre des Deputes. 
There were no books to be obtained in the latter establish- 
ment but parliaments intrigued me. I had never heard the 
great political orators because the appearance of a Grand 
Duke in Westminster or in the Palais du Bourbon might 
have caused distress to our ambassadors abroad and un- 
favorable comments at home. Our own Parliament in St. 
Petersburg, the Duma, while an excellent place to study 
the Russian capacity for endless talking, had been a rather 
poor exhibit of that constructive liberal leadership which, 
according to the High Command of the Allied Armies, 
was destined to preserve the freedom of such formerly 
abused nations as the French and the British. We did have 
lots of liberals drawing their yearly parliamentary salary 
from the Imperial Government and they did use the words 
"constructive” and "leadership” but their speeches invari- 
ably dealt with the illnesses of Peter the Great and the 
lovers of Catherine the Great which provided interesting 
reading for students of the eighteenth century but left the 

6 o 



A NUMISMAT SETTLES HIS BILLS 



country right where it had been at the moment they 
mounted the tribune. 

An acquaintance of mine, a French banker through 
whom I was buying airplanes and machine guns during the 
war was recently elected deputy from his native city and 
this made it easy for me to secure an admission card to the 
Palais du Bourbon. On the day of my first appearance in 
the parliamentary gallery he suggested we lunch together, 
in a small restaurant in the Rue de Bourgogne where most 
of his colleagues took their meals. The place was stuffy but 
friendly. In addressing each other, the majority of deputies 
present used the singular of the second person, an alto- 
gether delightful custom which made me think of Guards’ 
Barracks and the backstage of the Imperial Theatres. 

"Passe-moi du sel.” 

"Eh bien, qu’es’que tu penses de cette affaire en Angle- 
terre?” 

"As-tu vu Loucheur?” 

I expected they would burst into song any moment but 
the food was too good for music. 

"And now I am going to introduce you to the greatest 
orator of the Socialist party,” said my friend and pointed 
toward a white-haired, shortish fellow who was bathing 
in a big plate of bouillabaisse at the opposite table. 

"Be careful. He may not care to meet a Grand Duke. 
Few Socialists do.” 

"Are you joking?” 

6 1 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"Not at all. I mean it.” 

"But what about me? Am I not sitting with you at the 
same table?” 

"Are you a Socialist?” 

"Most decidedly.” 

"A man of your wealth?” 

"What has my wealth to do with the fact that only 
candidates of the Socialist party can be elected deputies 
in the part of the country I come from?” 

"I see,” I said, "my mistake.” 

The great orator turned out to be a man of the world 
and we discovered we had mutual friends. He asked me 
whether I had seen the old Duchess of late. I had. 

"Charming woman, isn’t she?” I volunteered. 

He made a grimace. He thought she was frightfully 
common. 

"Always was and always will be,” he explained. "You 
know, of course, that hers is only a Napoleonic title. Her 
great-grandfather was a baker in the days of the Direc- 
toire.” 

We all agreed that it was unfortunate. Anxious to learn 
his opinion about the outcome of the Versailles Conference, 
I mentioned my efforts to see Clemenceau. 

"He is too busy now,” said the orator, "fighting the 
British about that African oil.” 

African oil? It puzzled me. 

"Oh, you know,” he exclaimed impatiently. "What do 

6 2 



A NUMISMAT SETTLES HIS BILLS 



you call that place where the British exploit the poor 
negroes? The richest oil lands in the world. English papers 
are full of it.” 

"You don’t happen to mean Mosul?” I asked timidly. 

"That’s the name. I am going to speak about it this 
afternoon in the Chamber. My party won’t permit the 
British to continue their shameless exploitation of the igno- 
rant colored people.” 

Mosul was in Mesopotamia. There were no negroes there. 
Only Arabs who would have been greatly surprised to dis- 
cover that Mesopotamia had moved from Asia to Africa. 
However, these were but irrelevant details. What counted 
was the sentiment. 

Our luncheon over, we crossed the street toward the 
gates of the Chambre des Deputes. At the sight of my two 
Socialistic friends the guard-on-duty straightened up and 
presented arms. 

"Good-looking lad,” I remarked. 

"A typical French soldier,” said the great orator. "Best 
in the world. No nation has an army like ours. Always 
ready to fight for the freedom of mankind.” 

I was anticipating with something more than mere 
pleasure the promised speech on the conditions existing 
in the Mosul area. I hoped it would help me to learn the 
program of Democracy, perhaps be inspired by its noble 
spirit. Disappointment awaited me. No sooner did the 
handsome President of the Chamber call the deputies to 

63 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

order when a disturbance began. A tall, thin gentleman on 
the extreme right of the house crossed toward the left, 
approached one of the members of the Socialistic opposi- 
tion and hit him in the eye. The whole thing happened in 
less than ten seconds. A free-for-all fight followed imme- 
diately. Fists, canes and ink-wells were used. 

"What is the meaning of this disgraceful scene?” asked 
the President when the adversaries retired to their seats. 

"That scoundrel,” explained the tall, thin gentleman 
with a gesture toward the left, "told my friends that I 
was a dirty boche.” 

"Both gentlemen will apologize to each other and to this 
assembly,” said the President. 

"I am not in the habit of offering apologies to a skunk,” 
replied the tall, thin gentleman, throwing back his head, 
just in time to dodge a heavy leather-bound volume. 

"Gentlemen, gentlemen,” begged the President, "do not 
force me to call in the sergeants-at-arms.” 

But the deputies were not listening to him. Black and 
red ink were flowing freely down the white fronts of their 
shirts. 

The President sighed and put on his silk hat. 

What will the hard-working men and women of 
France say when they hear of this behavior of their legis- 
lators?” he exclaimed, turning toward the members of the 
government. This was unanswerable. We all rose to go. 



64 



CHAPTER FOUR 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 

i 

"Pretty poor horsemanship I call it ! ” said a gruff Russian 
voice back of me. 

"Which one of the three do you mean?” 

"Oh, all three of them. Isn’t it disgusting?” 

I smiled noncommittally. We were standing in the win- 
dow of Fouquet’s second floor, watching Foch, Haig and 
Pershing ride at the head of the Victory Parade. There 
was nothing particularly disgusting about the manner in 
which the three elderly generals sat their mounts but, 
searching hard as we were, we could not discern the pres- 
ence of the Russian colors in the rich collection of stand- 
ards floating above the heads of the triumphant victors, 
and this, naturally enough, provoked the ire of my com- 
patriot. 

"Be a sport,” I said. "After all, whose fault is it that 
we stopped fighting just at the moment when these people 
needed us most?” 

He sneered and pointed toward the battalion of the 
Portuguese. 



65 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

“How about them?” he asked. “A hell of a lot of fight- 
ing they did, didn’t they?” 

This was unanswerable. The truth was that we should 
have stayed at home and spared ourselves this unnecessary 
humiliation, but then we would not have been Russians, 
a nation which insists on doing its grieving in public. 

Wherever I went that day I saw Russians. They stood 
in little groups in the Champs-Elysees, on the Grands 
Boulevards and in the shady streets of Passy, and they 
talked as only Russians can. Not listening to each other, 
repeating the self-same argument over and over again, ex- 
celling in pantomime and reaching the uppermost heights 
of drama. To be sure, it was maddening that France had 
ignored the sacrifices of her erstwhile ally and that there 
was nothing in the entire Victory Parade to remind the 
world that some three millions of Russians had to be killed 
in order to enable Foch to ride under the Arc de Triomphe, 
but I for one was more concerned about the fate of the 
survivors. There must have been not less than one hundred 
thousand of them in Paris on that day, and this was only 
the advance guard, only a small fraction of the approach- 
ing hosts of refugees. 

The defeat of the White forces of Youdenich in the 
northeast and the surrender of Odessa by the Allied Fleet 
in the southwest gave impetus to a movement which was 
to continue in an ever-increasing tempo for five years to 
come and the like of which had never been witnessed be- 



66 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 



fore by the civilized world. Lawyers and doctors, artists 
and writers, bankers and merchants, officers and Cossacks, 
politicians and adventurers, peasants and landlords — every 
class of the Russian population was represented in the 
quarter of Passy favored by the refugees for no special 
reason except, perhaps, because it is the most expensive and 
exclusive district of Paris. They had to leave Russia partly 
because they were afraid of being shot, partly because they 
realized that there would be no place for them in a State 
ruled by the Soviets. They came to France because there 
were boats sailing from Constantinople to Marseilles and 
because they had always wanted to see Paris. Had they 
known that they would never go back, possibly they would 
have preferred to brave the bullets and the ration cards. 
As it was, they expected to exchange places with Lenin in 
the nearest future and they developed what in the parlance 
of the refugees of 1918-1923 was known as "the mentality 
of the packed handbags.” They lived from day to day, 
borrowing money from each other and promising their 
landlords and grocers that their bills would be taken care 
of the moment "Russia is Russia again.” The headlines of 
their papers — there were three Russian papers printed in 
Paris at that time — told them each morning that the Red 
Army was about to revolt and that a special train was con- 
stantly kept in readiness in Moscow for the badly-fright- 
ened leaders of the Soviets. This sounded encouraging. 
When reprinted by the French papers, it helped to over- 

67 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



come the resistance of butchers and innkeepers. There did 
not seem to be any point in looking for a job or settling 
down, when in another month or so "order” was to be 
restored in Russia. And so they sat on the terraces of the 
cafes and around the green tables in the clubs, wondering 
in what condition they would find their estates and trying 
their luck at baccarat and chemin-de-fer. The luck was 
usually bad and was eating up whatever jewelry or money 
they had managed to bring with them, but there always re- 
mained Paris, the city that accepted anyone who under- 
stood that life was short and real enjoyment rare. The 
Government of the Third Republic may have given Rus- 
sia a shabby deal but the genial maitre d’hotel of the 
Abbaye de Theleme had fortunately preserved his uncanny 
ability to detect the presence of a thousand-franc bill in 
the pocket of a Russian monsieur whose face he had not 
seen since 19 n. 

"Do you remember me, Jules?” 

"Mais parfaitement! Monsieur comes from Kieff. He 
likes to eat caviar with a tablespoon and he prefers the 
company of ladies of intelligence. Garmon! Encore une 
bouteille de Clicquot 1903 pour monsieur!” 

2 

Searching for a historical parallel, the Parisian news- 
papers recalled the French emigration of 1791 -1793, al- 

68 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 

though the flight of a few thousands of aristocrats fright- 
ened by the clang of the guillotine and the eloquence of 
Robespierre had little in common with this exodus of over 
two million intellectuals and tradesmen. Not only was 
there no Catherine the Great in the Paris of 1919 and no 
palaces were thrown open to the Russian exiles but the 
similarity of political opinions which united the Counts 
and the Chevaliers gathered in Coblenz and St. Petersburg 
was totally absent in Passy. The French emigrants of 1791- 
1793 were royalists, each and every one of them, whether 
supporters of the future King Louis XVIII or champions 
of the Due d ’Orleans, while the Russian refugees of 1919 
belonged to numberless political parties and hated each 
other much more than they did the Bolsheviks. A vast 
majority of them were republicans: republicans of the 
bourgeois type who were thinking of "liberty” in terms 
of a Raymond Poincare or a Herbert Hoover; republicans 
of that quasi-socialistic type which produces millionaire- 
lawyers in France and millionaire-publishers of radical 
weeklies in the United States; and finally, not a few of 
them belonged to the Second Internationale type of re- 
publicans and would have gladly embraced the Soviet 
faith had Lenin been willing to accept their collabora- 
tion. 

No one except a badly informed American correspond- 
ent could have classified that multicolored army as just 
"White Russian emigration.” Pink and reddish, green and 

69 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

>fr »fr >fr »fr *t* «$»♦ $ » «fr »fr >fr > fr > fr >fr > fr >fr >fr »fr >fr > fr >H”fr 

whitish, they were all waiting for the Bolsheviks to fall so 
that they could go back to Russia and resume their feuds 
interrupted by the October Revolution. Meanwhile, they 
had to do their fighting in the columns of their Paris pa- 
pers and on the platform of that same stuffy hall in the 
Rue Danton where in the early 1900’s Lenin used to de- 
nounce Plekhanoff’s fallacies. 

One afternoon, while sipping my aperitif on the ter- 
race of the Cafe de la Tour in the Square Albany, I noticed 
two men who were exchanging glances of undisguised 
hatred. Their faces seemed familiar, greatly photographed 
and connected with some unpleasant memories. There 
was a considerable distance between their respective tables 
and the cafe was crowded, yet they appeared to be inter- 
ested only in each other, as if unwilling to concede defeat 
in this battle of looks. Both must have known me because 
once in a while they turned in my direction, in a manner 
hardly suggestive of mere curiosity. Must be Russians, I 
thought, and evidently my enemies, but who? I watched 
for a moment the elder of the two and then I had it. Sa- 
vinkoff, the assassin of my cousin Grank Duke Sergei, later 
Minister of War in the Provisional Government, still later 
hired agent of the Allies in Siberia and the man for whose 
head the Soviets would have paid a spectacular reward! I 
used to see his Napoleonic profile, first in the circulars of 
the Department of the Secret Imperial Police, then on the 
Bolshevik posters plastered all over Russia and inviting "all 



7 O 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 



honest proletarians to shoot that contemptible bourgeois 
snake on sight.” I would have recognized him at once but 
he had aged considerably and had grown quite fat. 

"Well, well,” I said to myself, "in your white spats and 
with that gardenia in your buttonhole you certainly could 
pass for a vacationing English stockbroker or a retired 
Monte Carlo croupier, anything but a legendary bomb- 
thrower. Wonder who the target of your angry stares 
might be? Perhaps some prominent Bolshevik on an in- 
cognito trip to France.” 

But nothing in the younger Russian indicated the prob- 
ability of a Soviet pedigree. For one thing, he was dressed 
in a neat middle-class fashion while the Moscow emissaries 
either neglect their appearance completely or go in for 
flashy ties and silk shirts. I would have taken him for a 
former agent provocateur of the Imperial Police who 
might have bothered Savinkoff in the pre-war days but 
then I noticed his eyes and ears. The ears were bloodless 
and immense. They stood up like an abnormal outgrowth 
of the neck. The eyes were small and watery; they reflected 
meanness and deceit. Mirabeau’s description of Barnave 
came to my mind: "Barnave, tu as les yeux froids et fixes, 
il n y a pas de divinite en toi,” and this provided the cue. 
The great orator of the Russian Revolution! The Prime 
Minister who threatened to "lock up his heart and throw 
the keys into the sea”! The man who refused to sanction 
the departure of Nicky and the Imperial Family for Eng- 

71 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



land and insisted on their transfer to Siberia. I motioned to 
the waiter. 

"Am I right?” I asked. "That gentleman over there, is it 
Kerensky?” 

"I am sorry, monseigneur,” was the blushing answer, 
"but this is a public cafe. Unfortunately, we must admit 
anyone who has the price of a cup of coffee.” 

He could not understand my delirious laughter. Few 
Frenchmen would have understood the piquancy of that 
scene. One had to be a Russian and live through twenty 
years of assassinations and uprisings in order to appreciate 
this subtle satire of fate. Savinkoff, Kerensky and a Grand 
Duke — all three on the terrace of the same third-rate cafe 
in Paris, all three in the identically same situation, unable 
to return to Russia, unwilling to forget the past, choking 
with toothless hatred, not knowing whether they would 
be permitted to remain in France and continue to possess 
the price of a cup of coffee. This was something distinctly 
new, something that neither the French emigrants of the 
1790’s nor the hard-bitten Stuarts had ever experienced. 
No Robespierre sat with the Due d’Orleans in the latter’s 
unpaid-for room in a dingy inn in Philadelphia and no 
Cromwell rode by the side of Charles II through the muddy 
fields of Burgundy in search of a meal and a five-pound 
loan. 



7 2 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 



3 

Cafes and restaurants, maitres d’hotels and waiters. . . . 
The settings are humble and the cast of characters is some- 
what democratic. But then, it took the Russian refugees 
of 1919 several more years to reach the promised land of 
questionable titles. While still in Europe, in a climate un- 
favorable to the growth of the Czar’s "intimate friends” 
and the Czarina’s "confidantes,” they had to mix with 
commoners and patronize vulgar eating places. Early in 
their exile they met a few Americans who talked well if a 
bit too loud, and that encounter gave them an idea that 
there were not enough restaurants in the Western world. 
Along the great Russian trail leading from Constantinople 
to Hollywood, via Paris, New York and Chicago, there can 
still be found a few totem poles of that peculiar refugee 
craze of the early 1920’s. They knew little about the art 
of cooking, still less about marketing and nothing at all 
about "waiting,” yet they became restaurateurs. Hard 
drinkers and hearty eaters, they munched their ham sand- 
wiches on the terraces of the Parisian cafes and dreamed of 
chafing dishes and silver coolers. As customers they could 
no longer afford it, as restaurant proprietors they could 
easily write down to profit and loss the cost of their own 
feasting. The lack of necessary working capital did not 
stop them. There is something singularly persuasive in the 



73 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



arguments of a man speaking French with a Russian ac- 
cent; they obtained credit. They suspected, if vaguely, 
that they were going to be bled white by the Interallied 
Police in Constantinople, the French landlords in Paris and 
the prohibition agents in New York, but the ultimate re- 
sult did not matter to them. At least for a short spell they 
wanted to live again in the atmosphere of clinking glasses 
and moaning gypsies, even if the glasses were to come from 
Wool worth’s and the gypsies from Brooklyn. It turned out 
to be an exciting experiment. With the exception of half 
a dozen professional Russian restaurateurs who joined the 
ranks of the exiles much later, none of the self-styled 
caterers of the early 1920’s was able to survive the first six 
months behind the cash register. Generals and colonels 
found themselves once more walking the Rue Royale and 
peeping through the half-opened door of Larue’s, and it 
took the real waiters and real cooks to introduce the Kieff- 
sky cutlet to the Western world. 

The passing of thirteen years considerably changed the 
mentality of those two million dreamers who thought at 
first that their difficulties had been solved the moment they 
had escaped the pursuing patrols of the Red Police. True 
enough, they are still talking of "going back” and are still 
insisting that there is a train kept in readiness for the flight 
of Stalin but they have unpacked their bags and have set- 
tled down. A great majority took up manual labor. Some 
managed to capitalize their professional education and pre- 



74 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 



revolution experience. A few achieved fame as artists. A 
few exploited their looks and titles. A few turned bad and 
are responsible for that half -sneer with which the average 
American speaks of the Russian refugees. 

All in all, they did rather well — for a nation known for 
its inefficiency and procrastination. The Britishers or the 
Americans would hardly have done better if confronted 
by similar handicaps and struck by similar misfortune. 
When hearing the complaints of my Wall Street friends 
whose incomes had been reduced by the depression, I often 
wonder how they, their wives and their children, would 
rate if given just one change of clothes and told to get out 
and run. Would they be able to find for themselves a place 
in an alien country, to learn its language, to put up with 
sneers and humiliation, to begin a new life? The question 
is slightly impertinent but in no other manner can the 
achievements of the Russian refugees be properly gauged. 
At that, a New York banker stripped of his money and 
thrown out on the coast of Rhodesia would have a much 
better chance than his Russian counterpart who emigrated 
to America, for the African natives do possess a certain 
degree of inborn respect for any and all white men. 



4 

As if to please the Marxian historians, no casual fancy 
and no haphazard decision but motives of deep-laid nature 



75 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



were guiding the refugees in the choice of their permanent 
domicile. Difficult as it was to obtain visas and get hold of 
the price of a transatlantic passage, somehow and in some 
way all fakes worked their way to the United States. I do 
not mean to say that every Russian who emigrated to the 
United States is a fake but I am convinced that no other 
country in the world drew such an imposing quota of Rus- 
sian fakes. It surprised me at first that France, with its 
gambling resorts and ever-present flow of gullible tourists, 
should have attracted the best elements of the Russian emi- 
gration while America, a country that had always been 
producing and exporting vast quantities of her own bluff- 
ers and cheats, should have been preferred by adventurers 
and impostors, but further investigation helped me to solve 
this puzzle. I understood that, although the French closely 
resemble the Americans in their habit of kicking a fallen 
man, they do it in a more elegant fashion. In ninety-nine 
cases out of a hundred a Russian with a cultural back- 
ground applying for a position in France receives even 
less encouragement than he would in the United States but 
his right to quote his record is admitted and his past per- 
formances are recognized. A man who taught interna- 
tional law in the University of St. Petersburg may be 
turned down by the Sorbonne but his name is known to 
his French colleagues, his books have been read and a very 
clear distinction is made between him and an ignorant 
immigrant from Odessa who began by washing windows 

7 ^ 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 



and wound up by acquiring a block of apartment houses. 
Not that the French do not worship money and do not 
dread poverty. But the point is that while the average 
Frenchman bases his ideas of Russians on the memories of 
the men he saw and met before the war, the average Amer- 
ican’s conception of things Russian owes its origin either to 
the street scene in the Lower East Side or to a performance 
of the Chauve Souris. When a Frenchman sits in a Russian 
restaurant in Paris, he smiles a knowing smile. He realizes 
that, not unlike the "dangerous apaches” and La Vie Pari- 
sienne, the trashy gypsy songs and stalwart porters dressed 
in the garb of Caucasian mountaineers were brought into 
existence solely to satisfy "le gout Americain” and are in 
no way representative of Russia, past, present or future. 
But when an American descends upon a Russian night club 
in New York or Chicago, he invariably tries to get some- 
thing to which the cover charge does not entitle him. He 
immediately asks whether or not the waitress who served 
him his chicken sandwich is really a "Princess” and 
whether or not the husky fellow who helped him out of 
the taxi is really a "General.” Unless the answer is given in 
the affirmative, he feels he has been cheated out of his three 
dollars. Were he to be told that the girl is a full-fledged, 
honest-to-goodness waitress, and that the porter used to be 
the porter in a Moscow restaurant until that very day in 
August of 1914 when he became a soldier, one of the 
15,000,000 Russian soldiers, and that in fact, with the ex- 



77 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



ception of the American-born "gypsies” who belong to no 
profession, everyone connected with that night club used 
to be in the restaurant business as far back as the battle of 
Manilla — were our American to be told this unadorned 
truth, the chances are he would walk out enraged and 
would never come back. 

Fortunately for all parties concerned, not only is the 
answer invariably given in the affirmative but no particu- 
lar eloquence need be exercised to persuade the "General” 
to sell his silver dagger, "the gift of the late Czar.” The 
poor chap would be delighted to part with the blasted 
thing, both because he is afraid of it, having never handled 
a dagger until he came to America, and because he is thor- 
oughly sick of repeating the same lie dozens of times 
nightly. It is quite instructive to note that no Russian res- 
taurant de luxe has ever become a success in America un- 
less it endowed its waitresses with titles and dressed its 
artists in ridiculous clothes. Among those that failed ig- 
nominiously and irrevocably was the one opened by a fa- 
mous St. Petersburg chef universally recognized in Europe 
as a runner-up to Escoffier. His food was excellent and his 
entertainment tasteful but his employees had the stupidity 
to admit their common origin and to deny that they had 
ever so much as seen the Czar from a distance of five miles. 
In vain did I warn him that no man should dare take such 
liberties in a country where even Broadway actresses tell 
the public of their “intimate friendship” with the last 

78 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 



Czarina. He limited his conversation with the customers 
to the discussion of sauces and entrees. He lasted six weeks. 
It so happens that in his youth he was the chef of the 
cuisine of the Palace of Czarskoie-Selo. 



5 

By and by — the reshuffling of the refugees had con- 
sumed the first ten years of their exile — each country of 
the world got the type most suited to its requirements. The 
South American countries attracted the men who liked 
farming and the men who insisted on serving in the 
Guards, be it Imperial Guards or the Guards of an inde- 
fatigable pretender to the Presidency. Former diplomats 
and former bankers fitted rather well in what is left of the 
Edwardian society in England; it shocks them to witness 
the black-and-white parties in the salons of Mayfair but 
the knowledge of the fact that the Carlton Club remains 
in its usual place and that the antics of Montagu Norman 
are as silly as ever helps them to digest the presence of 
Ramsay MacDonald in Downing Street and the reign of 
Noel Coward in Piccadilly. The solid comforts of British 
life cured their Russian hysteria. It is reassuring indeed to 
open the morning papers at the breakfast table and realize 
that London is always the same grumpy, rugged London, 
with every politician still prophesying the doom of the 
Empire in the classical Chamberlainian manner, with Lord 



79 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Rothermere frothing at the mouth and raising the dickens 
on the pages of his bloated Daily Mail as of yore, with 
Bernard Shaw still sticking out his tongue at far-away 
America, with the agony column of the venerable Times 
still bringing its merry tidings of the all-forgiving Rich- 
ards and willing-to-start-again Joans. So thoroughly and 
amazingly British have the Russians become in London 
that when talking to them it is difficult to believe that 
right across the Channel, less than three hours by air, are 
to be found hundreds of thousands of their compatriots 
who continue to ponder over such things as "the real 
face” of the Revolution and the right of a Government 
to kill. 

As a rule the Russian fakes fare badly in England. The 
editors of the social columns have a disconcerting habit of 
consulting the Almanach de Gotha; the eldest members of 
the better clubs are able to tell even after the tenth Scotch- 
and-soda the name of the youngest son of the third cousin 
of that Russian Prince who used to live in Curzon Street 
away back in the i87o’s; and finally, there are a great 
many Britishers who often visited Russia before the war 
and were received not only in roadhouses. No Britisher so 
far has asked me to verify the authenticity of this or that 
"Prince” or "Count.” Everyone in England, including the 
newspaper men, realizes that even the genuine bearers of 
those Russian titles never constituted "royalty” or had any 
connection with the Imperial Family but were simply the 

80 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 



descendants of commoners elevated for some services ren- 
dered to the Crown. It really takes a person who wants to 
be duped not to distinguish between a raving impostor and 
a man brought up in an environment of a certain dignity. 
And this is why I had made it a point early in my exile 
never to answer inquiries as to the authenticity of titles. I 
still receive them by the hundreds. All of them come from 
America and Americans. Without a single exception all of 
them are made by people who ought to know better. 

"You must tell me,” recently said an American lady 
who spent a lifetime in the corridor between the Vendome 
and the Cambon entrances to the Ritz, "whether or not 

Prince is a real Prince.” 

"I will tell you nothing,” I answered. "I am not an in- 
formation bureau. Why don’t you have that chap looked 
up by your husband’s staff of investigators? After all, a 
Prince is not a South American loan. You don’t have to 
sell him to widows and orphans.” 

"But you don’t understand,” exclaimed the lady, "both 
my husband and myself like him and my daughter . . .” 
"Good,” I said, "what else do you wish?” 

"But is he a Prince?” 

"Is that South American loan your husband floated still 
paying interest?” 

"I don’t see the connection.” 

"I do,” I said. "Anyone who knows so much about what 
will happen in South America in the next ninety-nine 



81 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



years ought to know something about Russian Princes.” 

"How would you like it,” she returned with a wry smile, 
"if one of your sons was about to marry an American girl 
and another Grand Duke refused to vouch for his authen- 
ticity?” 

“I don’t have to worry about it. Thank God, every one 
of my six sons has married a penniless Russian refugee. 
They don’t have to listen to the drivel about the unfortu- 
nate heiress who loved a clean-cut American youth but 
married a vicious titled foreigner.” 

"You are bitter.” 

"Not at all. I simply believe in the law of demand and 
supply. You people were always after Princes and Counts. 
Well, you’ve got them now, thousands of them. So what 
else do you wish?” 

6 

Among the many brilliant short stories written by the 
late Jules Lecomte there is one which is my favorite. If I 
were the Russian Minister of Education I would have it 
reprinted on the opening pages of the First Reader. It deals 
with a prostitute who paced up and down the Grands 
Boulevards all night long searching in vain for a client. 
Finally, shortly before dawn, she spotted a gentleman who 
smiled at her and seemed to be willing to open negotia- 
tions. 

"It is bad for a man to be alone,” she said feelingly and 

82 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 



was about to offer her arm when he spoke up. She stopped 
short and listened for a moment. Then she gasped. "It 
would be my rotten luck to meet a Russian of all the peo- 
ple in the world and at this hour of the morning!” 

The gentleman was taken aback. 

"What’s wrong with the Russians,” he asked, "don’t we 
pay well?” 

"There is something besides money in our lives, my 
friend,” said the prostitute. "I’d rather go with a French- 
man and get gypped or with an American and get man- 
handled than with a Russian. On your way, my friend!” 
"But why? You must tell me the reason.” 

"Why? Have you got the nerve to ask me why? Don’t 
you know it yourself? Well, my friend, I shall explain it to 
you. It’s like this. You people have the habit of first taking 
all that a woman has to give and then tearing your hair 
and carrying on and crying and telling all about your 
beautiful fiancee Sonia who is the cleanest girl in the world 
and who must be saved from ruining her life with a man 
who shared the bed of a French prostitute. Good morning, 
my friend! Give my regards to M. Dostoievsky.” 

I know all there is to be known about the Russian 
exiles. I shared their bread and their pathos was not strange 
to me. I watched their heroic efforts to build a New Life 
and I do not overlook their ugly shortcomings. I recognize 
that for each Russian fake who married American millions 
there are hundreds who died in the French Foreign Legion 

83 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

and thousands who starved in Turkey; that for each cheap 
vaudeville performer who posed as "the former soloist of 
His Imperial Majesty” on Broadway there are scores of 
artists of unquestionable talent who drove taxis in Paris 
and worked in the steel plants of Pennsylvania; that for 
each adventurer who made his listeners weep with the re- 
cital of his "lost millions” there are dozens of former mul- 
timillionaires who never mentioned their railroads and 
factories in Russia. But with it all, there is something 
which neither I nor History can or will forget: that the 
two million Russian exiles are exactly the selfsame people 
who first took from the Empire all that it had to give — 
protection against the mob, license to exploit peasants, to 
underpay workers and to mulct stockholders, a life of 
comfort and charm — and then, when there remained 
nothing to be gotten from the Empire, they sat on the 
edge of the bed and cried and complained that they had 
not been faithful to the dream of their youth, the beauti- 
ful girl known as Revolution. 

Sometimes I think it was a fortunate thing for the Czar 
that he finished his life as he did. How would he feel were 
he to live in Paris or New York and hear "the glory and 
the glamour of the Empire” described for the benefit of 
rubbernecks by the people who deserted him when he 
needed them most? In his lifetime he never had a single 
friend among his subjects. Now in Hollywood alone he 
would have discovered thousands of them. Had he 

84 



ever 



RUSSIA ON THE SEINE 






had at his disposal as many "aides-de-camp” and "guards- 
men” as can be met within one week of cocktail parties in 
New York, he would be alive now and sitting on the 
throne of his ancestors. 



85 



CHAPTER FIVE 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 

i 

One morning — it was still January, 1919, and I was still 
living in the Ritz Hotel in Paris waiting for the long- 
delayed turn of the tide — a salvo of half-curious, half- 
excited glances greeted my appearance in the restaurant. 
Conversation at all tables stopped and all heads turned in 
my direction. I looked in the mirror questioningly, expect- 
ing to discover a torn sleeve or at least a missing button. 
Nothing short of a breach of etiquette of that nature could 
have caused so great a commotion, for by that time I had 
long ceased to be a novelty around the Ritz. 

My fears allayed, I settled at a table, ordered breakfast 
and began to peruse my mail. Perhaps, I thought, a letter 
might have arrived containing some startling news which 
was already known to everybody in Paris. Once more I was 
wrong. I found several bills, a few solicitations for auto- 
graphs and an invitation from my old friend the Duchess 
de Broglie to attend a dinner party she was giving that 
night. Nothing else. Not even a threatening missive from 
a Communist crank. Seeing that the people were still glar- 

86 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 



ing at me, I shrugged my shoulders and hid my counte- 
nance behind the morning paper. 

A badly smudged group photograph on the front page 
attracted my attention at once. I could not recognize the 
faces, but all the men wore the uniforms of the Russian 
Imperial Guard. I looked at the caption and only then 
noticed a two-column headline which read: 

FOUR RUSSIAN GRAND DUKES SHOT 

GRAND DUKES NICHOLAS, GEORGE, PAUL AND 
DIMITRY, TWO BROTHERS AND TWO COUSINS OF 
GRAND DUKE ALEXANDER WHO IS AT PRESENT 
HERE WERE EXECUTED BY THE SOVIETS IN ST. 
PETERSBURG YESTERDAY 

That was all. The dispatch itself contained but a few 
lines and gave no further details except that "the burial 
place of the four Grand Dukes has not been disclosed by 
the Soviet Government.” 

I remember folding the paper and trying to squeeze it 
into my side-pocket, a rather difficult thing to do consid- 
ering the odd size of the French dailies. Not that I was 
stunned. I knew it had to come, sooner or later. I had ex- 
pected it for weeks and months, but now that it had actu- 
ally happened my mind suddenly refused to function and 
I could not solve the puzzling nature of the reasons which 
had prompted the destruction of these four men who had 
always kept aloof from the political turmoil of Russia and 

87 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



who could not have presented any danger whatever to the 
triumphant march of the revolution. 

For a moment I thought of the four of them and the 
lives they had led. Nicholas — a dreamer, a poet, a historian 
of out-and-out republican tendencies, a disillusioned bach- 
elor worshiping the memory of his only love, the Queen of 
a Scandinavian country. George — a modest boy of not too 
many words who wanted to be left alone with his paintings 
and children. Dimitry — a hawkish giant madly in love 
with horseflesh, a confirmed and enthusiastic woman- 
hater, a student of the Bible and a prophet of Armaged- 
don. Paul — handsome, kind-hearted, supremely happy in 
his morganatic marriage, not caring a snap about mon- 
archy or power. The utter uselessness of this slaughter 
must have been clear even to the most pitiless of the Com- 
munists. 

I wondered what I should do next and whether there 
existed a way of learning some additional details. I turned 
and saw the maitre d’hotel. It appeared he was standing in 
back of me with the tray in his hands, possibly watching 
my reaction. Our eyes met. I recalled he had always been 
a particular favorite of both my brothers. 

"No doubt, Monseigneur would prefer to have his 
breakfast sent upstairs,” he suggested in a muffled voice, 
and this brought me back to my senses. I became conscious 
of the tense expectation of the lookers-on and realized that 
they were yearning for a grand theatrical gesture. 

88 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 

"You are very kind, Olivier,” I said, perhaps a shade too 
dryly, "but I am quite comfortable here.” 

So I remained at the table and ate my breakfast slowly, 
with every eye in the restaurant riveted upon me as if ask- 
ing how it was possible for a man to butter his toast and 
sweeten his coffee when four of his kin had been shot but 
twenty-four hours before. 

That night I attended the dinner party given by the 
Duchess de Broglie and braved a still greater attack of out- 
raged conventionality. 

"You here?” whispered the people who were accustomed 
to measure the intensity of sorrow by the sourness of face 
and the width of the black band on the sleeve. 

"Why not?” I asked them in turn and let it go at that. 

There would have been no point in my explaining to 
them that no firing squad in the world can extinguish that 
spark of immortal energy and eternal human effort which 
was known to me as the Grand Duke Nicholas Michailo- 
vich of Russia. There is hardly ever any point to a dispute 
between Faith and Prejudice. I kept my convictions intact. 
They grasped the opportunity to say that I "drank cham- 
pagne and danced” while my slaughtered brothers were 
being buried in Potter’s Field. I deemed them pitiful. They 
called me savage. 



89 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



2 

Even today, with thirteen years and several more graves 
separating me from that turning point in my itinerary, I 
find it extremely difficult to explain why the execution of 
my two elder brothers should have sharpened in me an ir- 
resistible urge to live and recapture what I had been robbed 
of, first, by the necessity to serve the Empire when still a 
mere child, then by the two fierce decades of wars and rev- 
olutions. Searching for a precedent in the history of the 
French Revolution — as every exile invariably does — I came 
across the celebrated answer of Abbe Sieyes, the inspirator 
of the liberal doctrines of 1789 and the future Minister of 
State under Louis XVIII, who used to parry all queries as 
to what he had been doing during the four years of the red 
terror with the same caustic remark: "Gentlemen, I have 
lived!” 

It is easier to survive than to "live” and, having been 
fortunate enough to save my six feet three from bullets, I 
was now mapping a short cut toward a fulsome and care- 
free life, something that until then I had learned to know 
only from books and hearsay. Although fifty- three and at 
least twice that much in memories, I refused to bow to the 
impossibility of retracing my early twenties. Come what 
may, I wanted to reclaim my rights to what I had missed 
while lunching in palaces, fighting moronic statesmen and 



90 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 



hibernating in the Imperial Council. The fear of ridicule 
itself failed to shatter my dream of becoming once more 
that roving sailor of thirty years ago who believed that 
sooner or later he should succeed in discovering the Land 
of Harmony. 

Naturally enough I was looking for encouragement, but 
the plentiful advice given to me by my French friends 
sounded like a distinct anticlimax. They were preaching 
prudence, glorifying the theory of a half-loaf and suggest- 
ing "advantageous apartments,” while the very idea of set- 
tling down to the monotonous existence of a pitiful "has- 
been” struck me as rather too elaborate a form of suicide. 
Nice as Paris was in its amazing ability to dignify idleness 
and exact genuine coins for counterfeit pleasures, Paris 
stood for the Past. It suggested a cemetery, a cemetery of 
ruined reputations and insolvent doctrines. The more I sat 
around the Ritz and the more I listened to the inane mum- 
blings coming from Versailles, the less I wanted to remain 
in Europe. Somewhere, fourteen hundred miles away, there 
still was Russia. The clever statesmen thought it "would 
recover very soon,” meaning that the grand dukes, the 
bankers and the generals would return to St. Petersburg 
and resume their occupancy of palaces, Stock Exchange 
and the Guards’ Barracks. The term "recovery” seemed to 
be grossly misused, but I never took part in these argu- 
ments for the simple reason that I would not have taken 
the whole of Russia as a gift. I was through with Russia, 



9i 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

» | < » $ l » | > » | « l ^ > » | > > | l > | < » | < I jfr lj } <» » | < tj fr » | > i fa » fr « % ♦ » | « «$l » | « »$» » $ « » jn$ « «$* *$* 4* *1* 

monarchistic, communistic or otherwise, and I hoped to 
God I would never lay my eyes on St. Petersburg again. 

This limited my choice to just two possibilities : to go to 
the United States and accept the patronage of my Ameri- 
can friends or to migrate to one of those idyllic islands in 
the Pacific which I first had visited in the late 1880’s and 
where even a large family can subsist joyfully and com- 
fortably on practically no money to speak of. Had I been 
alone I would have taken the very first boat sailing for 
New York. As a married man and the father of seven chil- 
dren I favored the Fiji Islands project. 

So I wrote a lengthy letter to my wife and sons, describ- 
ing for their benefit the lackadaisical natives, the fragrant 
flowers and the flaming sunsets of the Pacific and implor- 
ing them to move to a part of the world where one is given 
a munificent chance to assemble the bits and pieces of a life 
cut by the scissors of history. I waxed quite eloquent and 
felt so confident of the results that I began gathering vari- 
ous data on the Fiji Islands and went about making neces- 
sary preparations. Then my family’s answer arrived. It 
openly expressed their fears for my mental balance. It la- 
beled as sheer lunacy all my dreams and plans. "Why in the 
world,” they asked, "should we hide ourselves in a God- 
forsaken spot when the coming six months may see the 
reestablishment of a legitimate regime in Russia.” 

This nearsightedness appalled me. This continuous 
dwelling upon the same hopeless subject of "going back” 



92 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 

^44^4^4^ ^ » ♦ « > $ » «f n fr if 4 » » fr « fr > | » « fr » fr » t » 4 * ^ «fr » ft «ft »fr »fr »t < >t* «fr 

suggested not so much the faith of a patriot as the persist- 
ence of an indefatigable woodpecker. My family’s letter, 
taken as a whole, sounded frightfully middle-class, as un- 
fortunately a vast majority of royal letters and ideas do. 

For the second time in my life I thought of my mar- 
riage as a handicap and a bondage. Twelve years before, 
while spending a summer in Biarritz, I had met a woman 
for the sake of whom I would gladly have quit my family 
and become a farmer in Australia had she been willing to 
forget the preachings of her bishop. A fascinating com- 
bination of modern sportsmanship and thoroughly female 
charm, she possessed every ingredient that goes to make a 
perfect companion save a bit of logic and a dash of imag- 
ination. We went together to Venice. We met in Paris. We 
took frequent trips to Switzerland. I never had to coax 
her. She accepted my company in the spirit of one who 
realizes that genuine love is more than enough to counter- 
balance a slight irregularity of relationship. In due course 
of time I broached the subject of our future and offered 
an open and a permanent association. She said "no.” A flat 
and unhesitating "no.” It seemed that her bishop, while 
willing to close his eyes on our week-end trips, would have 
been certain to protest against a definite liaison with a mar- 
ried man. My friend explained that she wanted a wedding, 
a church wedding. She knew it would necessitate my ask- 
ing the Czar to permit me to divorce his sister, a thing 
unheard-of in the annals of the Imperial Family, but this 



93 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



fact did not change her determination. She said one had to 
draw the line. It puzzled me, my edition of the Good Book 
having failed to make the fine distinction between an asso- 
ciation with a married man and a marriage to a divorced 
man. I pleaded. I argued. I finally talked to my wife, who 
was likewise in the habit of taking her bishop’s advice. The 
whole thing wound up in a smash. I ceased to be a loyal 
husband and I lost at the same time the greatest opportu- 
nity of my life. Xenia decided that I did not love her any 
more, while my perfect companion went on her way. Both 
committed a grave mistake, both fell victims to their mis- 
interpretation of Christianity. I never stopped loving 
Xenia, though in a fashion which was entirely different 
from what I felt toward the woman of Biarritz. One was 
the mother of my children. She radiated security and per- 
sonified the established order of things. She stood for those 
traits of my character which were developed by years of 
military grind, by lectures on duties and responsibilities, by 
ceremonies of the Court, by Te Deums and Masses in 
cathedrals. The other appealed to my adventurous spirit. 
She was bringing back the transitory beauty of youth. She 
awakened in me my original self — a boy who dreaded to be 
a Grand Duke. 

All this took place in 1907. One might have thought 
that the passing of twelve years, accompanied as it had 
been by the thunder of a major tragedy, would make my 
Biarritz romance look pale and insignificant, but, in truth, 



9 4 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 

nothing, not even the debacle of Russia, mattered to me so 
much as the loss of that woman. Her smile, her lithe figure, 
the way she would walk into the room looking at me side- 
wise as if amused by the ingenuity of her own ever-vary- 
ing apologies for being late, the manner in which she 
would settle in a chair and light her colored cigarette, and 
that somewhat vague but delightfully remorseless day of 
our first meeting — I kept these memories alive throughout 
the years of the war and I cherished them in the dreary 
months of my imprisonment by the Bolsheviks as some- 
thing which enabled me to look back upon my past with 
gratitude and tenderness. 

I could easily have discovered her whereabouts through 
our mutual friends in Paris but meeting her again would 
have endangered my illusions. I feared I had aged consid- 
erably more than twelve years, and as for her — I preferred 
to retain her image as I saw her first, in all the resplendence 
of her fascinating youth, standing at the pole of the eigh- 
teenth hole on the links in Biarritz, sunburned and busying 
herself with her unruly auburn hair. 

Although not wishing even to try to find her, I contin- 
ued to love her in a detached sort of way, free from suf- 
fering but with an ever-increasing longing to revisit the 
scenes of my happiness. There was nothing more for me to 
do in Paris and the moment I received the news that my 
family had safely embarked aboard H.M.S. Marlborough 
and that they intended to rest for a while on the Island of 



95 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



* »fr » fr *X* * * * * * 

Malta, I left for Biarritz at once, promising myself to stay 
there as long as my f astly thinning means would permit. 



3 

Crowds of Americans and Britishers were coming to 
Biarritz for the Easter holidays. Sitting at my usual table 
on the terrace of the Miremont Bar — the same table I had 
occupied on each of my pre-war visits — I kept a vigilant 
watch, hoping and fearing that at any moment now I 
would behold my perfect companion of 1907. 

Nothing had changed in Biarritz in the thirty years I 
had known it. Fashions were different and lipsticks had 
acquired the rights of full-fledged respectability, but the 
"rules of the game” remained identically the same: in 19x9 
just as in 1889 it was agreed in advance between all parties 
concerned that whatever may happen between them and 
to them while in Biarritz shall be forgotten upon their 
return to Paris. 

"Ah, la Saison Russe! On n’a vu rien depuis . . . (Ah, 
the Russian Season! We haven’t seen anything since 
then . . . ) ” sighed the gray-haired old-timers, remember- 
ing the days of such lavish spenders and reckless cavaliers 
as my late cousin Grand Duke Alexis, but then in the days 
of Alexis they were sighing over the days of Empress 
Eugenie, so even in this respect the delightful Basque re- 
sort had retained its thoroughly crystallized features of the 

96 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 

>fr *t* » fr - fr * fr * fr «fr *1* 'X * »fr » fr *X* *t* >fr •l* "t* *X* *X* >fr *fr «H* 

Capital of Romance conducted in a modern fashion but 
inspired by the shadows of the great lovers of yester- 
year. 

I played golf every day and sometimes when I would get 
up sufficiently early and arrive at the links ahead of the 
foursomes of bankers and brokers — so distinctly "1919” in 
their platinum-hooded Hispanos — I would feel back in 
1907, looking at the never-changing expanse of the all- 
ignoring ocean and going over the eighteenth hole that lay 
right opposite my former villa. On reaching the pole I 
would stop and wait. I dared not ask myself what I was 
waiting for because I would have been obliged to confess 
that in the back of my mind was lurking a childish, an 
infinitely childish hope that she might yet appear from no- 
where and join me in the setting of our first meeting. 

Two weeks passed. I waited patiently and peacefully. 
The spirit of joyful laziness permeating the air of the 
Basque country was gradually performing its usual miracle 
of bringing harmony into a heart that had grown accus- 
tomed to beat to the measure of discord. I walked a lot, 
drank a bit and spent long hours reading the Bible. The 
book of Revelation, my favorite during the war, left me 
unimpressed under the skies of Biarritz, so I switched to 
the Song of Songs. It was gratifying to think that deprived 
as I was of all my earthly possessions I could still indulge 
in the luxury of sipping a glass of red wine and reading 
the lines immortalizing the comeliness of the Shulamite. 



97 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return that we 
may look upon thee . . .” 

I never got beyond this concluding verse of chapter 
six. It was my signal to lay the Good Book aside and begin 
to dream. I saw myself a farmer in Australia, separated by 
thousands of miles from what was happening in Russia and 
fully satisfied with the company of my beloved. I visual- 
ized my second family” raised by me in the way I wanted 
and not in the platitudinous fashion established by my mad 
great-grandfather, Emperor Paul, for the generations of 
Romanoffs to come. The Australian branch of the Ro- 
manoffs! Perhaps, brought up in a different atmosphere, 
they would have endowed the House that suffered from 
all sorts of ancestral curses with new blood and new 
ideas. . . . 

I raved on and on, charting in minutest detail the course 
of life of that imaginary Australian family of mine. I over- 
looked nothing. I expected to have three boys and one girl. 
They were never to visit my native country. I preferred to 
keep them immune from that sustained tragedy which has 
been, is and shall always be Russia. . . . 

I must have entirely succumbed to the spell of these 
adolescent dreams because one afternoon I suddenly 
jumped up, dressed and rushed to the golf links for the 
second time that day. The approach of the cocktail hour 
had sent all players scurrying back to town and for several 
minutes I sat alone near the first green. Then I heard the 

9 8 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 



sound of a powerful motor. I turned and saw a blue Rolls- 
Royce stop some three hundred feet away from where I 
was. A tall woman, dressed in white, stepped out and took 
her golf bag from the driver. The next moment I was run- 
ning. I felt certain it was she. No one else could have pos- 
sessed that rare combination of broad shoulders and ex- 
tremely narrow ankles. With the hot and strong wind 
blowing in my face and the words "Return, return, O 
Shulamite” ringing in my ears, it seemed it would take me 
hours to cover those three hundred feet. She took a swing, 
made a long drive, evidently unaware of a hatless man 
running toward her, and then, just as I was about to shout 
her name, she turned around to arrange her red-and-yel- 
low scarf and I saw that she was not she. Same figure, 
same height, same unruly auburn hair, same contours of a 
pale oval face, but there the resemblance stopped. The blue 
eyes of this one reflected coldness and annoyance, the green 
eyes of the other wore a constant smile of teasing mockery. 
She looked between twenty-eight and thirty but the man- 
ner in which she sized me up, with a frown of exaggerated 
indifference, suggested that she may have been either less 
or British. 

I bowed, received no bow in return and stepped aside. 
She continued to play and I followed her for nine holes, 
always keeping between us a distance affording an alibi. 
My curiosity aroused and the sight of her thin, tall, broad- 
shouldered, narrow-ankled figure reminding me so vividly 



99 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

^ *$ * i fr * t * * 1 * * t * $ « » fr ^ » t " *fr >fr " t * " I * » fr » t * * fr * t« * t * 

of my perfect companion, I would readily have walked by 
her side for even thirty-six holes, if necessary, but she 
played just nine. Then she went back to her car, without 
so much as another glance at me. 

"This finishes it,” I said aloud, which was a lie, because 
I knew she had made a considerable impression on me and 
that I would do all in my power to see her again. 

Immediately after dinner I went to the Casino, sup- 
posedly to shake hands with some American friends, in 
fact to try to find the lady of the blue Rolls-Royce. 

She was not there, and this first saddened me, then made 
me furious with myself — the two unmistakable signs of a 
man falling in love. By midnight I surrendered to the truth 
and turned the conversation at our table toward the "new 
after-war faces” to be seen in Biarritz. 

"Do you happen to know,” I asked my friends, "the 
name of that fascinating young lady who comes to the 
links around the cocktail hour, driving in a blue Rolls- 
Royce and playing all by herself?” 

No, they did not know her but they supposed I could 
very easily learn all I wanted by watching for her at the 
Miremont Bar and asking the maitre d’hotel. 

"But that means waiting until tomorrow!” I exclaimed 
innocently, causing a thunderous outburst of laughter and 
a great deal of teasing. 

"Many a sage,” said a grumpy gentleman present, "has 
made a perfect damn fool out of himself just by staying at 



ioo 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 

•* $ ** $ **$* * $* *^* * $* * $ * ♦ $ * * ♦ * * ♦ * » $ * *♦*•*$*"*$++$**$+*$* *$♦ ♦$* »$* »$> » $ » «j» > $ » » * « l $ l > | » > | » i| h | h | h |» ^ n |> 

the golf links after the cocktail hour. . . . Golf is a game 
that can be safely played only in the morning.” 

Evidently he did not know that back in 1907 I used to 
play it only in the morning. . . . 



4 

The following noon found me firmly entrenched in the 
Miremont at a table facing the entrance where I could see 
everyone coming from the street. So afraid was I of miss- 
ing my mysterious lady that I greeted my friends of the 
previous night rather lukewarmly. I anticipated they would 
ask me to join them and I dreaded to lose my post of ob- 
servation. They took it good-naturedly and sent me a 
short note which said: “Patience, patience and more pa- 
tience. . . Just then the now familiar Rolls-Royce 
stopped in front of the Miremont. I stood up to get a bet- 
ter view. She was alone again, and the maitre d’hotel 
rushed toward her. She waved him aside. 

“I am looking for someone I know,” she said in those 
jerky tones which seem to be expressly cultivated by the 
British women of the younger generation. 

Before I had a chance to congratulate myself on the 
correctness of my prognosis, she went inside and made 
straight for the table occupied by my friends. Embarrass- 
ing as it was for me to join them now after having declined 
their original invitation, I felt no hesitancy in doing it. I 



IOI 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



would have broken each and every rule of etiquette and 
decent behavior for the sake of making the acquaintance 
of that woman. And besides, I said to myself comfortingly, 
why did they lie to me last night pretending not to know 
her? 

Duly introduced — her name meant nothing to me, it 
was just another British name — I sat beside her and began 
by saying that we had very nearly met the day before on 
the golf links. 

"Really?” she replied coldly and that was as much as she 
chose to say during our first encounter. A few minutes 
later she got up and left. 

I did not need to ask many questions. One never does 
when taking cocktails with Americans in Biarritz. In less 
than three Martinis I was given a wealth of information 
pertaining to the none-too-talkative lady. She was twenty- 
five and separated from her husband. The rest consisted of 
gossip, unverified and commonplace. 

A series of fretful days ensued. My Bible closed and 
peace of mind gone, I commuted between the golf links 
and the Miremont, looking in vain for the sight of the blue 
Rolls-Royce. Finally I could not stand this suspense any 
longer and decided to make a tour of the hotels. I learned 
that she had been staying at the Palais but left for Paris 
five days ago, precisely two hours after I had met her in 
the Miremont. That night I slept on the train. 



102 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 



5 

The masters of the art of pursuit tell us that one can 
win almost any woman by applying a sufficient amount of 
persistence. Persistent I was, probably even annoying. But 
it would be a gross overstatement to say that I succeeded 
in really winning her. No fifty-three could or ever did 
win a twenty-five. Self-evident as is this truth, I over- 
looked it in 1919. I would joyfully ignore it again could I 
live my life anew. So long as there remains one man in this 
world of ours, he will be anxious to risk what he has in his 
pathetic attempts to get what he cannot reach. 

I had Xenia. That was a certainty, both in 1907 and in 
1919. I was willing to lose her, in 1907 because I tried to 
be an ensign of twenty instead of a retired admiral of 
forty-one, in 1919 because I thought I met someone who 
resembled a woman who had turned me down twelve years 
before. . . . 

Looking back upon my last love-debacle — it was the 
last, the very last — I realize that I was never able to dis- 
tinguish between the three faces, each one of them pre- 
cious, each one appealing: Xenia, my perfect companion 
of Biarritz, my blue-eyed British lady. I needed all three 
of them and I was prompted in my love for them by the 
three vastly different but equally formidable forces. My 
Loyalties. My Memories. My Quest of Youth. 



103 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

Each time I came to the point when I had to decide 
and choose I trembled and hesitated, not through cow- 
ardice but because of sheer inability to make up my 
mind. 

In its essentials my sad affair of 1919 developed along 
the lines of my romance of 1907, although this time I was, 
of course, both handicapped and aided by the prefix "ex” 
being added to my Imperial title. I gained in freedom what 
I had lost in estates. On one hand, I ceased to be a man 
protected by the secret police and watched by the Rus- 
sian Embassy; on the other hand, I was no longer able to 
afford the luxuries I wanted to provide for the woman I 
loved. 

My pursuit lasted three years and covered a lot of terri- 
tory. Accustomed as she was to divide her year between 
Paris, Deauville, Lido, Biarritz and the French Riviera, she 
naturally expected me to follow her and felt no inclination 
to change her well-established routine. She said that if my 
love for her measured up to my persistence it should cul- 
minate in our marriage. . . . 

Once more I had to face Xenia. I hated to do it because 
it struck me as being so beastly cruel to crown my wife’s 
tragedy with the demand of a divorce, but there was no 
other choice. Having forfeited my happiness in 1 907 I was 
determined to fight for it now. The whole trouble lay in 
the fact that it was going to be a very one-sided fight, for 



104 



IT HAPPENED IN BIARRITZ 

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never since the day I married her had Xenia as much as 
reproached me or raised her voice. 

Our explanation was painful and useless. Just as I an- 
ticipated it, she sat perfectly quiet. Not a word of protest. 
Not a frown of indignation. Her late brother himself 
could not have been nicer. . . . 

I talked. She listened. Until the very end I could not 
guess what was on her mind. Then she smiled Nicky’s smile 
and said she would gladly sacrifice everything and any- 
thing in order to make me happy but she simply must con- 
sult her bishop! Nothing at all had changed under the sun 
in so far as her ideas of a Christian’s duties were concerned. 
... I could no more make her understand the utter ab- 
surdity of her decision than I could years ago force her 
brother to keep Russia out of a war with Japan. Both pos- 
sessed that certain strange something which people mistook 
for weakness but which helped them stand still in the face 
of a cannonade. 

Needless to add, the bishop turned his thumbs down. He 
would not have been a Russian bishop had he been capable 
of sympathizing with life. 

I raved. I threatened. I grunted in mortal agony. All to 
no avail. Xenia was still her brother’s sister, so I had to 
break the bad news to my prospective bride. 

"I am accustomed to know exactly where I am head- 
ing,” she said firmly, and that was the end. 

She got up, — we were sitting on the terrace of the Mire- 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



mont, — tied her red-and-yellow scarf and motioned to her 
driver. 

I remained alone. I am still alone. It took me several 
years more to realize that even bishops can be right, some- 
times. 



106 






CHAPTER SIX 

OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 

i 

The i92o’s crashed in like a drove of pursued madmen. 

They promised to hang the exiled Kaiser before Christ- 
mas; and the youthful King of Greece was bitten to death 
by his pet monkey. 

They carried the body of the Unknown Soldier to a 
sumptuous rest under the Arc de Triomphe; and disabled 
poilus were begging along the line of the solemn proces- 
sion. 

They sounded twelve colossal sirens to announce to the 
population of Paris that a man by the name of Georges 
Carpentier had just been knocked down in far-away New 
Jersey; and a President of France was picked up on the 
railroad tracks at dawn, clad in a pair of silken sky-blue 
pajamas. 

They wrote forty thousand words explaining to the 
statesmen of Germany that the payment of sixty-four bil- 
lion dollars constituted a privilege and a pleasure, and a 
census of the City of Berlin revealed that a vast majority 



\ 



107 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



of its children knew of the existence of butter solely from 
hearsay. 

The 1920’s marched on, past night clubs and bread lines. 

I watched this fascinating show breathlessly. I would not 
have missed it for the world. True enough, the arrival of 
the New Epoch found me standing on the side lines, in the 
role of a mere spectator and in the company of three mil- 
lion other Russian refugees who came by boat, by train, 
afoot, on horseback and astride a camel; but not even for 
a moment did I regret my absence from the cast of char- 
acters. It relieved me of all responsibility for the success of 
the show. It enabled me to cheer and hiss. Most of the star 
performers, the surviving sovereigns of Europe, being my 
relatives and friends, I was permitted to come and see them 
back-stage. In fact, I spent the better part of the 1920’s 
perambulating between London, Rome and Copenhagen, 
where the members of my family were accepting the hos- 
pitality of our royal cousins. 

At first we felt distinctly ill at ease in each other’s pres- 
ence. Our words were meaningless, our silence eloquent. 
We, the exiled Romanoffs, were hampered by an excess of 
self-consciousness. They, the reigning Windsors, Savoias 
and Glucksbergs, were trying to hide their embarrassment 
under a thick veil of overdone politeness. Deep in our 
hearts we thought it was only a question of time before 
they too would join our ranks. Deep in their hearts they 
blamed our mishaps on our own foolishness. We tried to 

108 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



warn them. They hoped to God that ours was not a con- 
tagious disease. Experts extraordinary of the technique of 
revolutions, we assumed a knowing mien on watching a 
procession of unemployed pass a royal palace, and this 
"professional habit” of ours caused no little irritation to 
our hosts, sick with Russia. 

Externally, however, we were as close as ever, calling 
each other by our pet names, inquiring about the health of 
each other’s wives and never failing to incorporate the 
words "your affectionate cousin” in the concluding line of 
our letters. 

The outsiders thought it odd that a letter addressed from 
Buckingham Palace to a modest two-room apartment in 
Paris should be signed "Your affectionate cousin George 
R. I.” And an American friend of mine suggested that we 
were "just like Southerners.” This comparison made up in 
wit what it lacked in exactitude; the aid given by a 
wealthy son of Virginia to his less successful kin of Ala- 
bama causes no unfavorable comment in the former’s 
neighborhood, while our eleven "affectionate cousins” 
could never forget the existence of opposition parties in 
their respective parliaments. 



2 

A niece of mine invited by a Balkan queen to board the 
royal train for a trip to Paris was told at the last moment 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



that she would have to make different arrangements, be- 
cause the radical papers were about to accuse Her Majesty 
of silently surrendering the country’s claims to a former 
Russian province. 

An elderly cousin who had the intention of settling in 
Italy learned to his dismay that his presence there might 
cause all sorts of complications to the Crown. The people 
were willing to "forgive” him for having headed the "ar- 
mies of the reaction,” but the fact that his wife was a sister 
of the Queen of Italy made the link between the two fami- 
lies a bit too close to suit the politicians. 

On top of all, as if to make our situation still more diffi- 
cult, we discovered at an early date that in order to remain 
personce gratae in the Allied countries we must refrain 
from even corresponding with our German relatives. Anx- 
ious as I was to visit my niece, the Crown Princess of Ger- 
many, and my favorite cousin, Prince Max of Baden, I had 
to think of my sons in London and Rome. . . . The pass- 
ing of time did away with these cruel prejudices, and I now 
often receive letters of great understanding and touching 
sweetness from the Crown Princess; but unfortunately 
Prince Max died while it was still considered highly com- 
promising for me to renew my lifelong friendship with the 
last chancellor of the German Empire. It seems that his 
"unforgivable crime” consisted in remaining just as loyal 
to his country as the royal families of England, Belgium, 



IIO 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



and Italy had been to theirs. Who could have thought years 
ago, when he and I were making sly passes at the American 
girls on the tennis courts of Baden-Baden, that a day 
would come when I would not dare even to send a message 
of sympathy to my poor Max! 

When the first excitement caused by our miraculous 
escape had subsided, and our "affectionate cousins” had 
learned all that was to be learned about the end of Nicky, 
and the reporters had ceased to haunt us for "exclusive 
stories,” the moment arrived when we could not further 
postpone our encounter with the problem of readjustment. 
We faced it bravely though clumsily. In allotting to each 
European country its quota of surviving Romanoffs, we 
attempted to follow the line of least resistance. This was a 
grave mistake, as we understood later on, but at the time 
we knew no better. 

Grand Duke Boris used to be friendly with the King of 
Spain, so he went to Madrid. His brother Andrew thought 
he was exceedingly popular on the French Riviera, so 
Riviera it was to be. Their elder brother Cyril followed 
his wife to Rumania, the country of the latter’s sister, the 
present Dowager -Queen Marie. 

My own family, though invited to move in its entirety 
to London, disclosed a surprising amount of common sense 
by splitting itself into two groups : my mother-in-law, my 
wife and the younger children accepted the hospitality of 
my aunt Dowager-Queen Alexandra; while my daughter, 



ill 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



her husband Prince Yousoupoff, and my two elder sons 
settled in Rome. 

Following the precedent established by these move- 
ments, Grand Duchess Marie and her brother Dimitry 
should have gone to Greece, the country of their late 
mother, and the Grank Dukes Nicholas and Peter (mar- 
ried to the two sisters of the Queen of Italy, all three Mon- 
tenegrin princesses) should have shown a preference for 
either Italy or Montenegro. Unfortunately, a diminutive 
monkey did away with King Alexander of Greece; the 
Alli es dealt in practically the same manner with Monte- 
negro; and as for Italy, that country was going through 
the convulsions of the pre-Mussolini period. Thus it hap- 
pened that Marie and Dimitry had to divide their time 
between Paris and London, while Nicholas and Peter re- 
tired to a peaceful house on the French Riviera. 

The years to come caused a considerable amount of 
shuffling and reshuffling, but this is how the Romanoffs 
were “laid out” in the early 1920’s. 

Kt 

3 

Needless to say, none of us possessed any cash to speak 
of. My son-in-law Prince Yousoupoff was considered the 
nabob of the lot, having managed to rescue from Russia 
two of his numerous Rembrandts, which were eventually 
sold for the sum of four hundred and fifty thousand dol- 



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OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



lars to Mr. Joseph Widener of Philadelphia. Before the 
revolution, Yousoupoff’s annual income ran well into eight 
figures, which fact is sufficient in itself to explain the short 
duration of the Rembrandt proceeds. 

We had some jewelry, each one of us. In any other hands 
it would have been equivalent to the possession of a fair- 
sized fortune. In our case it led to a series of childish at- 
tempts at salesmanship and shrewdness. Not daring to ap- 
pear personally in the shops we had been patronizing for 
generations, we hired the services of "third parties.” The 
jewelers roared and said: "This is a very nice string of 
pearls, indeed. It was sold to Grand Duchess Xenia of Rus- 
sia some twenty-five years ago. As a museum piece it repre- 
sents a great value. As a piece of merchandise it has prac- 
tically none. Now that the Romanoffs, the Hapsburgs and 
the Hohenzollerns are no more, who could possibly buy 
it?” 

They argued well and acted wisely. In less than a week 
the news of our "peddling the stones” had become known 
to every dealer in Paris, Amsterdam, London and New 
York, and the prices took a slide. At the end we felt im- 
mensely happy to be able to get slightly less than twenty 
percent of what we ourselves had paid twenty-five years 
ago. I remember that day. It was my duty to call a meet- 
ing of the family and to announce the results. My wife 
thought we were now safely set for the next five years, and 
decided to move to Copenhagen. I claimed that, if prop- 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



erly invested, the money would surely take us right into 
the 1930’s. We were wrong, both of us. We lived off Xen- 
ia’s pearls for just three years, to a minute. But move to 
Copenhagen she did. She had seen much of London by that 
time, and hoped that the modest, almost provincial life led 
by the royal family of Denmark would provide a better 
background for the upbringing of our sons. She adored 
King George and liked the younger Windsors, but standing 
at the helm of the greatest empire in the world, they were 
naturally obliged to preserve that atmosphere of ancient 
splendor which impresses the layman but is thoroughly un- 
bearable to a mind loaded with the memories of a tragic 
past. By going to Copenhagen, to be the guests of the tall 
and silent Gliicksbergs, my wife and sons were virtually 
retiring to a farm, in quest of simple surroundings and 
"healthy” country air. The final decision rested with my 
mother-in-law. I feared that this sudden return to the 
country she had left fifty-five years ago to become the 
Empress of Russia might give her a shock, possibly endan- 
ger her life. But she had determined to go. 

“I shall die in Hvidore,” the Dowager-Empress said 
firmly, and that silenced me. Hvidore was the name of the 
spacious house built by her in the 1890’s to serve as head- 
quarters for our spring reunions in Denmark. It stood 
right on the sea. Sitting in her sternly furnished drawing 
room, the old lady could watch the ships going in the di- 
rection of Russia. Everything in and around the house bore 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 

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witness to the visits of her late husband Emperor Alexan- 
der III. His favorite easy-chair in the library, the deck of 
cards used by him for the game of "wolf,” his admiral’s 
cap on the table, his hunting trophies on the wall. . . . 
Whenever he came to Copenhagen, two giant Cossacks 
would take their posts at the entrance gates; and much to 
my amazement I saw them again when bidding good-by to 
my mother-in-law at the station in London. For all I 
know, they might have been the sons or even the grand- 
sons of my father-in-law’s guards, but in any event the 
old lady was going to have her two towering broad-shoul- 
dered Cossacks at the entrance gates of Hvidore. 

"It seems like the old days,” I remarked to her laugh- 
ingly. 

"You mean the Cossacks,” she replied casually. "Well, 
my dear, what would you? I cannot leave these poor men 
stranded here in London.” 

I nodded. Her cult of Emperor Alexander III was not a 
subject to be discussed at a railroad station. 



4 

Always a maverick, I refused to admit that I could do 
nothing at all except live on the largesse of my reigning 
relatives. I saw them often, but preferred to remain a resi- 
dent of Paris. 

Each time I went to London, Rome or Copenhagen, I 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



came back with the feeling of having wasted so much 
time. Taught by exile to discuss all subjects freely and 
without mental reservations, I loathed to employ my old 
battery of tricks and recur to hypocrisy at the mention of 
this or that particularly unpleasant topic. There were 
plenty of them: the Indian problem in England, the Fas- 
cist policies in Italy, the advisability of trade relations with 
the Soviets in Denmark. It so happened that almost invari- 
ably I found myself in sharp disagreement with the view- 
points accepted by my "affectionate cousins,” which 
meant that our conversation had to be limited to "neutral” 
subjects. This in turn bored me. I began to notice that 
royalty, when left to its own devices and temporarily re- 
lieved of the pressure of office, provides exceedingly poor 
company. The constant talk about Prince So-and-so not 
wishing to marry Princess So-and-so failed to excite me, 
because both the stubborn bridegroom and the overanx- 
ious bride seemed to be people of small importance. 

I wished them well, but the tiresome repetition of their 
names made me think I could still catch the night train for 
Paris. . . . 



5 

The conversation at the table of the average European 
sovereign compares quite favorably with that one hears in 
the house of a powerful Wall Street banker but it is far 
less entertaining than that at a dinner party in a speakeasy 

ii 6 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



de luxe in the East Fifties. It is free of grandiloquence but 
it lacks in brilliance. 

Less opinionated than their transatlantic counterparts 
and by far less conscious of their own importance, the 
Kings and Queens of the Old World like to eat their food 
without the seasoning of idolatry. 

I talk of food and luncheons and dinners because only 
at meals does a monarch relax. There are audiences to be 
given to the arriving and the departing ambassadors, there 
are daily cornerstones to be laid, there are innumerable 
'‘anniversaries” to be attended, there are expositions, agri- 
cultural and industrial shows, cattle fairs and art salons — 
all presumably of vital importance. Even as thoroughly de- 
throned a King as Victor Emmanuel of Italy can rarely 
spend an afternoon in the circle of his immediate family. 

Hard and relentless is the royal routine and its influence 
on the characters of its victims can be imagined. It was 
with a great deal of feeling that in answer to the cry of 
"idle rich” thrown at him by a Cockney laborer the pres- 
ent Prince of Wales said: "Rich? Perhaps. But, hang it all, 
man, not idle!” 

It is only natural that once left alone with their children 
and relatives, the European sovereigns are not overanxious 
to rehearse the main events of their working day or discuss 
the Problems of World Importance. Ever on the lookout 
for a safety-valve, each has his or her favorite pastime. 

If there are small children in the family, as is the case of 



“7 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

the present King of Yugoslavia, the conversation is likely 
to center around their frolics and bright sayings. The 
world may end tomorrow but the youthful heir apparent 
of the Balkans must tell his father of the battle he staged 
that afternoon in the garden of the palace against the in- 
visible armies of imaginary enemies. 

Many a tension was relieved in the Castle of Balmoral in 
the troublesome days of the reform of the House of Lords 
by the late King Edward’s favorite grandson "David,” the 
present Prince of Wales. Engulfed in his thoughts, tired 
and weary, the King would look at his grandson and ask 
him, just to make conversation: "I say, David, how do you 
feel about the possibility of ascending the throne of your 
ancestors?” "It’s the very devil,” David would answer, and 
that would save the day for the guests and restore the 
cheerfulness of the King. . . . 

It is of common knowledge that the major part of the 
spare time of the present sovereigns of England is being 
spent with their grandchildren, the sons of their daughter 
the Princess Royal Mary and the daughters of their second 
son the Duke of York. Aside from the natural fondness 
one cannot help but feel for these handsome, cheerful tots, 
it is much more refreshing to laugh at the latest exploits of 
the blond Princess Elizabeth than to talk of what everyone 
at the table is well aware of, that the Empire is passing in- 
deed through days of the most unbelievable tension. 

Each time I return to Paris, the permanent seat of my 

1 18 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



exile, from a visit to this or that reigning relative, my 
friends want me to tell them, "in strict secrecy” of course, 
what news I have brought and what was said in the privacy 
of a royal dining room. I find it difficult to make them 
believe that the miraculous "backhand” of William Til- 
den and provided the main topic of conversation in a pal- 
ace in Scandinavia while the qualities and the defects of 
the Salt Lake Bridge were discussed in detail by the rail- 
road-loving King of Belgium. "And London? What did 
you hear in London about the future of the pound? When 
do they think it will be possible to stabilize the British cur- 
rency?” I blush. I sigh. I admit reluctantly that "they” 
talked about the Christmas presents received by Princess 
Elizabeth and debated whether it is really advisable to per- 
mit the girl to be photographed so often. 

And the books, the modern music, the theater? Does art 
interest the royal conversationalists? Yes and no. All de- 
pending on the royalty in question. Needless to say, the 
Prince of Wales is far ahead of his immediate relatives and 
European cousins in so far as modern arts are concerned. 
An inveterate first-nighter, not only is he invariably well 
posted on the "latest hits” but he is able to discuss with a 
great degree of technical precision the orchestration meth- 
ods of Paul Whiteman and the difference between the jazz 
of Tin-Pan Alley and the original jazz of the cotton plan- 
tations. The Spanish Revolution has removed his only 
"rival” in the ranks of royalty. Up to the spring of 1931 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



it was an open question whether the Happy Prince of 
York House or King Alfonso of Spain was the greater ex- 
pert on all things modern. The taste of the other members 
of the British Royal Family seems to be somewhat old- 
fashioned against the background formed by the ideas of 
the Heir Apparent. Kipling and Hardy in literature, 
Beethoven and Wagner in music, still dominate the artistic 
interests of the King and the rest of his family. In coming 
out, publicly and openly, against what he called the "over- 
sexed” literature of our times, Prince George acted as a 
spokesman for himself, his parents and his two brothers, 
the Duke of York and the Duke of Gloucester, but hardly 
for the Prince of Wales. The latter is well aware of the 
existence of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner 
and their British followers and would be most unlikely to 
class their books as just "oversexed” literature. 

I sincerely regret the present temporary retirement of 
Mr. Alphonse Capone. There was a subject that never 
failed to amuse and attract the glorified prisoners of the 
European palaces! While not every one of them was as well 
acquainted with the rich ramifications of that gentleman’s 
career as King Alfonso of Spain (he reproached me for 
not knowing the exact nature of the relations between Mr. 
Capone and Mr. "Legs” Diamond) , a guest who had just 
returned from America was always certain to please his 
royal hosts with the recital of this or that latest episode in 
the Capone epic. I must confess that during my sojourn 



120 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



in Florida I spared no effort in getting the exact descrip- 
tion of Capone’s island from the natives because I knew 
these data would be highly appreciated back in Europe, 
around the dinner tables laden with worries and badly in 
need of a mental escape. 



6 

Salary or no salary, I wished to do something to fill my 
time. It was depressing to get up in the morning and have 
no program for the day, except to attend a luncheon, a tea 
or a dinner. Other grand dukes, being accustomed to that 
sort of complacent existence in St. Petersburg, were much 
better trained for their present idleness. As for myself, 
from the age of sixteen to the moment of the Revolution 
I had always been occupied with constructive work. I 
commanded the fleet; I ran the merchant marine; I built 
airplanes; but whatever my post happened to be, it had 
kept me busy from eight in the morning until seven at 
night. 

I wanted to land a job; so I called on my friends, the 
bankers and shipbuilders. They laughed. The very idea of 
hiring a grand duke struck them as a ridiculous notion. 
They told me not to worry. They reminded me of the 
existence of that law in England according to which a 
man is declared legally dead ten years after his disappear- 
ance. 



Hi 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"So what?” I asked in puzzlement. 

"Simply this: that in another five years your wife and 
your sister-in-law will enter into possession of the late 
Czar’s millions in the Bank of England.” 

I swore. No matter how often I had explained to my 
friends that not a farthing was left by the Czar either in 
England or anywhere else abroad, they still persisted in re- 
peating that silly story of the Romanoffs’ twenty million 
pounds. 

Finally I managed to meet a man who was willing to 
take me seriously. 

"You want a job,” he said pensively. "That I can readily 
understand. But what are your qualifications? What can 
you do?” 

I sighed a sigh of relief and proceeded to describe my 
talents. I mentioned my administrative experience, my 
theoretical and practical knowledge of everything that 
pertained to ships and shipbuilding, my wealth of lan- 
guages. When I finished, he shook his head sadly. 

"I am afraid,” he said, "that you are going to find it 
rather difficult to sell these qualifications of yours. Your 
administrative experience might be used by an empire, but 
where are the empires? The steamship companies are losing 
money steadily, and would not even dream of building 
additional craft. As for languages, permit me to be frank 
and brutal: you are entirely too old to become a teller in 
our foreign department, and I do not imagine that you 



122 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



would care to be hired as a secretary by a traveling million- 
aire. I may be mistaken, of course, but that’s how it looks 
to me.” 



7 

He was not mistaken. The experiences of my cousins, 
nephews and nieces upheld his wisdom. 

There was a young Grand Duchess who fancied she 
could make her living as a dressmaker in London. She 
rented a small flat and began designing her own fashions. 
People came in droves, looked at her models and said that 
she was a “real sport,” a “truly brave little woman.” While 
they themselves were not in the market for new dresses 
just then, they felt certain that they would be able to rec- 
ommend the industrious Grand Duchess to their numerous 
friends. Weeks went by. The rent had to be paid. The 
adorable, cute models remained unsold. Something had to 
be done right away. The Grand Duchess swallowed her 
pride and confided her difficulties to a member of the royal 
family. She hated to do it, but was immensely relieved to 
hear that aid would be forthcoming at once. Next morn- 
ing a gold-braided messenger rang her bell. A letter for 
Her Imperial Highness. The envelope was thick and sealed. 
Its appearance suggested money. “Lord be praised!” said 
the Grand Duchess, and opened it with trembling hands. 
There is no end to the variety of ways in which an order 
can be issued to a bank for the payment of a sum of 



123 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



money, and at first she thought that the three sheets of 
vellum paper contained instructions to be followed by her. 
She read the letter carefully. She saw names, names, names: 
twenty-four names of the ladies who would be likely to 
become her clients. 

Then there was a young Grand Duke who came to the 
conclusion that the choice of one’s profession should be 
based on one’s past performances as an amateur. His mind 
drifted toward the city of Rheims, with its miles of cellars 
laden with champagne. "The cursed stuff cost me so much 
money before,” said the young Grand Duke, "that surely 
it ought to support me now. With all due modesty, I do 
maintain that I know more about the vintages of cham- 
pagne than even the Widow Cliquot herself.” So he went 
to Rheims and spent a whole week in the profound business 
of tasting the various vintages. He believed that none but 
the very best deserved the services of an Imperial super- 
salesman. The gargling and the smacking over, he chose a 
well-known brand and signed an agreement with its man- 
ufacturers. Then he left for the "road,” rather pleased 
with his own determination. 

In the words of the Soviets: "He who does not work 
shall not eat.” The young Grand Duke wanted to eat. In 
no time at all he reached the address of his first prospective 
customer, a wholesale dealer and a former caterer to the 
Imperial Court of Russia. Their mutual delight at seeing 
each other can be easily understood. They talked of the 



124 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



good old days of the three champagne-loving empires. 
They became emotional. They drank a bottle of "extra- 
special” vintage. The dealer said that wine of such quality 
was not obtainable any more in Rheims, for either love or 
money. The Grand Duke smiled and produced his port- 
folio. He thought he could easily oblige his amiable host by 
selling him a thousand dozen of champagne of even higher 
standard, at a price that would shame the catalogues of all 
competing houses. The dealer opened his mouth wide. He 
wanted to say something, but the young Grand Duke was 
not to be outtalked. The very last word was, however, the 
dealer’s. He said "No.” 

"Poor France — poor champagne!” he exclaimed deject- 
edly. "If even the Russian Grand Dukes must sell it, who 
the devil can buy it?” 

Right then and there the noble industry lost its star 
salesman. 

8 

Having tried their hand at a score of professions, sto- 
ically but unsuccessfully, my male relatives must have re- 
verted to the original type, because quite early in the 
1920’s there appeared among them three pretenders to the 
non-existent throne of Russia. 

The first one — my nephew Cyril — acted within his 
rights, being the legitimate successor to Crown and Czar- 
dom. 



125 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



The other two — my cousin Nicholas and my nephew 
Dimitry — fell victims to the boundless enthusiasm of their 
supporters. 

The clash of their claims, staged as it had been against a 
background of poverty and exile, left unbiased observers 
thoroughly perplexed. With the Soviet Union entering 
upon its sixth year of existence and showing no signs of an 
early collapse, that three-cornered battle of the Pretenders 
appeared highly premature, to say the least; and yet it was 
taken quite seriously by the numerous Russian refugees. 
They ran around; they congregated; they intrigued. And 
true to the old Russian custom, they talked each other into 
a state of stupor. Ragged and pale, they flocked to the 
meetings of monarchists, to the stuffy and smoke-filled 
halls of Paris, where the relative merits of the three Grand 
Dukes were being discussed almost nightly by orators of 
prominence. 

One heard lengthy quotations from the fundamental 
laws of the Russian Empire confirming the inalienable 
rights of Cyril, recited by an elderly statesman clad in a 
Prince Albert coat and looking like an upright corpse held 
from behind by a pair of invisible hands. One listened to 
a much-decorated major-general shouting that the "large 
masses of the Russian population” were insisting on seeing 
Nicholas, the former Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial 
Armies, on the throne of his ancestors. One admired a 
silver-tongued lawyer from Moscow defending the rights 

126 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



of the youthful Dimitry in a manner which would have 
been certain to squeeze tears out of the eyes of a jury. All 
of it was taking place just a stone’s throw from the Grands 
Boulevards, where the crowds of jovial Parisians sat over 
their long and short drinks, utterly oblivious of the impor- 
tance of electing a Czar of Russia. 

My political views being well and unfavorably known 
to the Russian monarchists, at no time during that heated 
campaign was my own name so much as whispered; but 
one peaceful December morning I woke to discover that 
my son Nikita had been duly elected Czar at a gathering 
of a "dissenting” fraction of the royalists. This news upset 
me. I protested vehemently. What had begun as an inno- 
cent pastime was obviously acquiring the dimensions of a 
tragic and questionable force. It was none of my business 
how my cousins and nephews were facing the problem of 
readjustment, but I wanted to save my own boy from 
making a laughing-stock of himself. He worked in a bank, 
was happily married to the chum of his childhood, Coun- 
tess Marie Vorontzoff, and was possessed of no ambitions 
whatever to compete with Grand Duke Cyril. An absurd 
and painful explanation ensued. I was told by the former 
Russian liberals converted to monarchism by financial re- 
verses that they considered my interference an additional 
proof of my "drifting toward Bolshevism.” Coming from 
anyone else, these words would have "riled” me, but 
thrown at me by the chatterers who were directly respon- 



127 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



sible for the downfall of the Empire, they sounded like a 
compliment. 

9 

It dawned on me that, though not a Bolshevik, I could 
not agree with my relatives and friends and sweepingly 
condemn whatever was done by the Soviets just because it 
was done by the Soviets. True enough, they had killed my 
three brothers, but they had likewise saved Russia from 
becoming a vassal state of the Allies. 

One moment I hated them and wished I could lay my 
hands on Lenin or Trotzky but then I would hear of this 
or that unquestionably constructive action of the Moscow 
Government and would catch myself whispering: 
"Bravo!” Like all lukewarm Christians, I knew no way 
of getting rid of hatred except by submerging it in still 
bigger hatred. The subject for the latter was provided by 
the Poles. 

When in the early spring of 1920 I saw the headlines of 
the French newspapers announcing the triumphal march 
of Pilsudsky through the wheat fields of southwestern 
Russia, something snapped inside me and I forgot that 
scarcely a year had passed since the assassination of my 
brothers. All I could think was: "The Poles are about to 
take Kieff! The perennial enemies of Russia are about to 
cut off the Empire from its western borders!” I dared not 
declare myself but, listening to the nonsensical chatter of 

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Had three ambitions: to win the Epsom Derby, to be knighted and to break into Society 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 

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the refugees and looking at their faces lit with smiles, with 
every drop of my blood I wished victory to the Red Army. 
It mattered not that I was a Grand Duke. I was a Russian 
officer who had sworn to defend the nation from its ene- 
mies. I was a grandson of the man who had threatened to 
plow up the streets of Warsaw should the Poles once more 
dare disrupt the unity of his Empire. A seventy-two-year- 
old phrase of this same ancestor suddenly came to my 
mind. Across the report describing the "appalling actions” 
of a former Russian artillery officer, Bakunin, who had 
led the mob of German revolutionaries in an attack against 
a fortress in Saxony, Emperor Nicholas I wrote in two- 
inch letters: "Hurrah for our artillerymen!” 

The similarity of our reactions struck me forcibly. That 
is how I felt when the red warrior Budenny smashed the 
legions of Pilsudsky and chased them all the way back to 
Warsaw. This time the compliments were due to the Rus- 
sian cavalrymen but otherwise not much had changed since 
the days of my grandfather. 

"But you seem to forget,” said my faithful secretary, 
"that among other things the victory of Budenny means 
the end to the hopes of the White Army in the Crimea.” 
Correct as was his remark, it failed to shatter my con- 
victions. It was clear to me then, in the eventful summer 
of 1920, as it is now in the quieter days of 1933, that in 
scoring a decisive victory over the Poles the Soviet Govern- 
ment had done what any truly national government would 



129 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

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have been obliged to do. However ironical it might appear 
that the Unity of the Russian State had to be defended by 
the members of the Third Internationale, the fact remains 
that from that day on the Soviets were forced to pursue a 
purely national policy which happens to be the age-old 
policy introduced by Ivan the Terrible, crystallized by 
Peter the Great and brought to a climax by Nicholas I: 
To defend the borders of the State at all cost and step by 
step to fight toward the natural frontier in the west! I feel 
certain that my sons will live to see the day when not only 
the nonsense of the independent Baltic republics will be 
brought to an end but Bessarabia and Poland will be re- 
conquered by Russia and a considerable remapping of the 
frontier will take place in the Far East. 

Back in the i92o’s I dared not look that far. Then I was 
preoccupied with a rather personal problem. I saw the 
Soviets emerge with flying colors out of a protracted civil 
war. I heard them talk less and less of what used to interest 
their early prophets in the halcyon days of the Cafe des 
Lilas and more and more of what had always been vital to 
the bulk of the Russian nation. And I asked myself with 
as much sincerity as could be expected from a man who 
had lost a considerable fortune and had witnessed the ex- 
termination of the majority of his kin: “Could I, a product 
of an Empire, an individual raised to believe in the impec- 
cability of the State, still continue to denounce the present 
rulers of Russia?” 



130 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 



The answer was "yes” and "no.” Mr. Alexander Ro- 
manoff shouted "yes.” Grand Duke Alexander said "no.” 
The former felt distinctly bitter. He loved his flourishing 
estates in the Crimea and in the Caucasus. He craved to 
walk once more into the study of his palace in St. Peters- 
burg where rows upon rows of shelves were burdened with 
the leather-bound volumes of the history of the navy and 
where he could spend an adventurous evening caressing his 
precious ancient Greek coins and thinking of the years it 
took him to find them. 

Fortunately for the Grand Duke, there always existed a 
divide between him and Mr. Romanoff. A bearer of a re- 
splendent title, he knew that he and his like were not sup- 
posed to possess intelligence or exercise imagination, and 
thus in solving his present predicament he did not hesitate, 
he was in fact obliged to rely upon his collection of tradi- 
tions, platitudinous in their nature but surprisingly effi- 
cient in their decisiveness. Loyalty to his country. The 
example of his ancestors. The advice of his peers. To re- 
main loyal to Russia and to follow the example of the early 
Romanoffs who had never thought themselves bigger than 
their Empire meant to admit that the Soviet Government 
should be helped and not hindered in its experiment and 
to wish it would succeed where the Romanoffs had failed. 

There remained the advice of my peers. With one single 
exception, they all thought I was crazy. Unbelievable 
though it may seem, I found sympathy and support in one 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



European sovereign known for the shrewdness of his polit- 
ical judgment. 

“If put in my position,” I asked him point-blank, 
“would you permit your personal bitterness and thirst for 
revenge to obstruct your view of the future of your coun- 
try?” 

The question interested him. He weighed it gravely and 
proposed that I should change its phrasing. 

“Let us put it in a different way,” he said as if he were 
addressing a council of ministers. “What is thicker, blood 
or what I call 'imperial substance’? What is more precious 
— the lives of our relatives or the continuous progress of 
the idea of empire? My question is an answer to yours. If 
what you loved in Russia was limited to the boundaries of 
your family, then you can never forgive the Soviets. But 
if you have spent your life as I am spending mine, hoping 
and wishing for the preservation of the Empire, be it under 
its present banner or under the red flag of a triumphant 
revolution, then why hesitate? Why not have sufficient 
courage to admit the achievements of those who replaced 
you?” 



io 



And so three years passed, years of extended traveling 
and little achievement, the three sabbatical years lived by 
us off Xenia’s pearls. 

The coming of 1924 brought a rude awakening. With 

132 



OUR AFFECTIONATE COUSINS 

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Rembrandts and jewels exchanged for room and board and 
railroad tickets, once more we said that we must "do some- 
thing” and once more we did not know what we really 
could do. 

The word "America” dominated our conversation. One 
of my sons succeeded in landing a job in the National City 
Bank of New York, and his enthusiastic letters provided 
the only bright spot on our otherwise pitch-dark horizon. 
I must admit I envied him and wished we could swap our 
respective positions. Grand Duchess Victoria, the wife of 
Grand Duke Cyril, who had spent that winter in New 
York, spared no superlatives in describing the attractive- 
ness of the social life in Manhattan. According to her, we 
should all have moved to Park Avenue. That was fine; but 
I knew Park Avenue. It was a gorgeous street when one 
was going up. I feared it would look horrible on the way 
down. Not that I lacked invitations, but the idea of going 
to America as a nonpaying guest of my old friends was 
distasteful. It clashed with what was left of my pride, and 
I decided to stay in Paris waiting for some minor miracle 
of an indefinite nature. Bad as it was, I hoped that by now 
we all had learned our lesson and would be willing to for- 
get that we had ever lived in Russia. . . . 

Then came a letter from Copenhagen. I shall remember 
it till the day the archangel blows his horn. 

Christmas is nearly here,” wrote the Dowager-Empress, 
and there are many gifts to be distributed around the 



133 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Hvidore, but the Department of the Imperial Estates has 
not forwarded my check as yet. I cannot imagine what the 
nature of this strange delay could possibly be.” 

I rubbed my eyes, looked at the date and gasped. On 
December 5, 1924, nearly eight years after the downfall 
of Czardom, my mother-in-law was still expecting to re- 
ceive her check from the Department of the Russian Im- 
perial Estates! Standing on the threshold of eighty, and 
having outlived four emperors of Russia, she flatly refused 
to recognize the new order of things. She knew that her 
sister, the Dowager-Queen Alexandra of England, was 
being treated with the adoration of yore, and she saw no 
reason why she, Empress of an even greater empire, should 
be subjected to the inconveniences of exile. It would have 
been utterly useless to try to explain to her that the very 
building in St. Petersburg which had housed the much- 
lamented Department was now occupied by a club of 
Communist youth. So I wrote a check for all I could, and 
mailed it to Copenhagen, together with my fervent hopes 
that Christmas would be exceedingly merry and the com- 
ing 1925 better, oh, so much better, than 1924 had turned 
out to be. I meant it, too. Were the coming year to prove 
still worse than the past one, there would have been no 
1926 at all, so far as we were concerned. 



J 34 



^ » 4- » * » » »t< » » » » »t< » » » t « » » » » > » »> ^ * 



CHAPTER SEVEN 

CYRIL AND HIS INVISIBLE EMPIRE 

i 

He moved the Capital of Russia to the village of St.-Briac 
on the rocky coast of Brittany and there, in the solitude 
of his study on the ground floor of a none-too-prepossess- 
ing country house, he conducts the affairs of his invisible 
Empire every day, from nine to six. 

According to the local police, who are keeping a diligent 
check on each and every foreigner residing in their dis- 
trict, he is "the former Grand Duke Cyril of Russia ad- 
mitted to France on a visa authorizing a stay of an indefi- 
nite duration.” 

According to some five hundred thousand exiled Russian 
monarchists who are making their precarious living in 
thirty-odd countries, east and west of Suez, he is "Em- 
peror Cyril I of All the Russias,” the legitimate successor 
to the throne of the Romanoffs relinquished by his cousin 
Czar Nicholas II on March 15, 1917. 

The divergence between these two viewpoints, though 
vast and obvious, does not create too great a commotion in 
the learned circles of constitutional lawyers for the very 



135 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

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good reason that neither the forces of the St.-Briac police 
nor the enthusiasm of the loyal Russian emigrants can 
sway the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics from its 
clearly charted course. Up to the moment of this writing, 
speaking solely in terms of guns and bayonets, there ap- 
pears to be hardly any chance at all for the ultimate tri- 
umph of Grand Duke Cyril, but then, as usual, the last 
word belongs to that faithful friend and reliable comforter 
of all pretenders — History. History that teaches us that in 
geometry only is a straight line the shortest distance be- 
tween two points, never in the life of nations, never in the 
sequence of revolutions and counter-revolutions. History 
that presents us with the instructive tale about a ragged 
middle-aged refugee who for twenty-three lean years led 
a life of near-starvation and wound up by becoming King 
Louis XVIII of France. History that reminds us of the 
amazing exploits of another Frenchman, a young Parisian 
of no particular talents, who talked his way from the ter- 
races of the sidewalk cafes into the Tuileries Palace, to be 
known to posterity as Emperor Napoleon III. History that 
unearths in its files the names of Charles II of England, 
Louis-Philippe of France and Ferdinand VII of Spain — 
the never-say-die three who finally gained their thrones 
through sheer force of patience and with the valuable 
assistance of "charge accounts” with friendly grocers and 
trusting innkeepers. History that fully recognizes the 
present indisputable power of Stalin but at the same time 

136 



CYRIL AND HIS INVISIBLE EMPIRE 



points out the fact that once upon a time there cropped 
up a fierce little Corsican by the name of Bonaparte. 

There is no end to the pranks of History, and that is 
why, when people of supposed wisdom ask me in tones of 
civic indignation, "What have you to say of the behavior 
of your nephew Cyril? Don’t you consider it highly ridic- 
ulous, this idea of his posing as the Czar of All the Rus- 
sias?” I invariably answer, not without a shade of flourish: 
"I do not. I believe in History. I have to. I am a Grand 
Duke myself, don’t you see? ... I have lived long 
enough to realize that many a thing ridiculous today will 
be labeled as a most admirable example of grit, maybe not 
later than tomorrow. . . 



i 

But "pose” as the Czar he does. He even acts it. He is- 
sues Orders, bestows Monarchial Thanks, signs Promotions 
and addresses Messages on policies to be followed by his 
supporters. 

His is a life of sustained pathos because the business of 
being a Czar, while highly overrated at best, is nothing 
short of a nightmare when one is obliged to rule over an 
Empire that is no more, with one’s subjects driving taxis 
in Paris, serving as waiters in Berlin, dancing in the picture 
houses on Broadway, providing atmosphere in Hollywood, 
unloading coal in Montevideo or dying for Good Old 



137 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



China in the shattered suburbs of Shanghai. The job of 
running the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire of yore 
was a sinecure indeed in comparison with the present task 
of Grand Duke Cyril. 

Under the circumstances his sovereignty has to be en- 
forced solely by mail. Not that he believes the pen is 
mightier than the sword, but the thing is that he has no 
sword. 

Each morning, the robust sunburned postman of the 
village of St.-Briac appears on the threshold of the impro- 
vised Imperial Palace, puffing and panting under the 
weight of batches of letters which carry the stamps of 
almost every country under the sun. The foreign repre- 
sentatives of the Shadow Emperor of Russia keep him 
posted daily on the physical welfare and the morale of his 
far-away subjects, although they would be the first to 
admit that it would take a super-Moses to solve the in- 
finitely involved problems of the Russian exiles. 

He sits and reads. His reading matter is a lesson in ge- 
ography and a study in the psychology of human bond- 
age. 

Russians, Russians and Russians . . . Russians all over 
the world! Dreaming sages and scheming cranks, heart- 
broken heroes and unabashed cowards, candidates for the 
Hall of Fame and full-fledged patients of Dr. Sigmund 
Freud. 

It seems that the red agitators working in the Balkans 

138 



CYRIL AND HIS INVISIBLE EMPIRE 

have made considerable headway among the Russian refu- 
gees in Yugoslavia and that nothing less than a "Personal 
Letter from His Majesty” could save the situation at this 
dangerous moment. . . . 

This sets Grand Duke Cyril thinking. Life is strange. 
Yugoslavia — a country liberated by his grandfather, a land 
drenched with the blood of two generations of Russian sol- 
diers. Who could ever have expected that it would survive 
its benefactors of the House of the Romanoffs? 

He has no time to think too long for there is a letter 
from New York marked "extremely important.” The 
crisis of employment continues unabated in the United 
States and "a word or two of Monarchial Encouragement 
would be greatly appreciated by the impoverished Russian 
colony in Harlem.” 

Harlem. Jazz. Wide-checked suits and flaming ties. 
Synthetic gin and synthetic vice. And the Russians await- 
ing a word or two of Monarchial Encouragement! How 
absurd, how tragically and infinitely absurd. 

The next letter takes him to China. The War Lords are 
continuing their efforts to draft the services of the former 
Russian officers in Manchuria and the latter are looking in 
the direction of St.-Briac for advice and guidance. . . . 

And so it goes. Somehow his loyal subjects possess an 
uncanny talent for planting themselves in countries which 
immediately thereafter are hit by revolutions and wars. 

There is that group of Cossacks who but recently settled 



139 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



on the border between Bolivia and Paraguay and who are 
now obliged to choose between returning to Europe or 
fighting for a totally alien cause. 

There is that brave General in India who is wondering 
whether it is "dignified and honorable” for a former Com- 
mander of an Imperial Army to protect a Rajah against 
the latter’s revolting subjects. 

And there is that brilliant cavalryman in Chile, a whole- 
hearted royalist if ever there was one, who has suddenly 
discovered the socialistic tendencies of the government 
that is employing him. . . . 

Then comes a batch of complaints. The passing of the 
last eighteen years has failed to impress their authors. Their 
clocks stopped on July 31, 1914. 

A former Supreme Court Justice of Moscow — he is still 
using his full title although he is working at present as a 
factory hand in Canada — wants it to be distinctly under- 
stood in St.-Briac that a young Russian employed in a 
bakery in Montreal is a very dangerous radical who should 
not be permitted to return to Russia when the monarchy 
is restored. 

A former Captain of the Guards — now a dishwasher in 
a self-service cafeteria somewhere in the Middle West — 
feels deeply hurt because his name has not been included 
in the latest "list of promotions.” He is convinced that his 
age and merits entitle him to the rank of Colonel. "I hap- 
pen to know,” he adds with considerable resentment, "that 



140 



CYRIL AND HIS INVISIBLE EMPIRE 



several friends of mine have already been made Colonels 
although they left Russia as mere Lieutenants.” Come 
what may, he wishes to be "promoted” by Grand Duke 
Cyril even if he is never able to wear a Colonel’s epaulettes 
or collect the "back salary” due him since 19x7. 



3 

Pathos intermingled with comedy and blindness goaded 
on by hope form the backbone of this segregated world of 
make-believe. Nothing is real, everything is a prop. Pro- 
motions and demotions, orders and counter-orders, cita- 
tions and reprimands, promises and threats, salaries and 
bonuses — all is being done on a "when, if and as” basis, 
subject to the ultimate decision of History. 

Naturally enough, a stranger visiting St.-Briac for the 
first time brings along a preconceived idea of what the 
Shadow Emperor of Russia should look like and is fully 
prepared to encounter a personage from Wonderland, a 
hero of fantastic features. No one expects to see a very tall, 
extremely handsome man who bears the weight of his mid- 
dle fifties with a quiet dignity seldom observed in the case 
of an actual occupant of a throne. So thoroughly czar- 
like is the appearance of Grand Duke Cyril that when he 
goes out for his morning stroll through St.-Briac it seems 
as though a squadron of Chevalier-Guards, with their hel- 
mets surmounted by the imperial double-headed eagles, 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



should line the dusty and unpaved streets of that fisher- 
men’s village. 

The stranger, considerably taken aback, glares at the 
Grand Duke and thinks: What is the matter with this 
man? Why is he playing this comedy? Is he a maniac, a 
superannuated visionary, a pitiful somnambulist? 

The answer is “no.” In fact, the explanation of the 
whole mystery is quite simple. It so happens that Grand 
Duke Cyril is the first in the line of succession to the 
throne of Russia while I myself am fortunately the tenth. 
Therefore, I may write books and articles, play contract 
and backgammon, attend cocktail parties and greyhound 
races, travel and have an all-around good time but he must 
keep the fires of the Monarchistic Idea burning. I say “he 
must” because we both belong to a family which has for 
centuries maintained that nothing, not even the fear of 
ridicule, should interefere with the fulfillment of our du- 
ties. As Grand Duke Cyril sees it, his and his youthful son’s 
duty consists in providing an active leadership for the Rus- 
sian royalists abroad and in revising the age-worn mon- 
archistic precepts in a manner that would make them ac- 
ceptable to the Russians in Russia. 

“I am working for the salvation of our country,” he 
said to me in the course of our recent conversation. “I 
know enough about the cardinal laws of mechanics to 
understand that each forceful swing of the pendulum to 
the left is bound to be followed by an equally forceful 



142 



CYRIL AND HIS INVISIBLE EMPIRE 

swing to the right. It is my duty, the duty of every sensible 
statesman, to be prepared for the moment of that counter- 
swing and to do all in my power to limit its scope and 
arrest its potential destructiveness. There is no way of ac- 
complishing this except by creating a new set of healthy 
national ideals which in themselves would carry both the 
ability to prevent another deluge of blood and a powerful 
appeal to the constructive elements of our country. 

"I know no parties. I am making commitments to no 
classes. Mine is the task of interpreting the inarticulate 
groans of the now disfranchised majority of the Russian 
people, the majority that is not permitted to send its repre- 
sentatives to the Soviets, the majority that is utterly tired 
of the revolution and its so-called conquests, the majority 
that is clamoring for a simple life of peace and personal 
happiness. I am doing my duty and I am teaching my son 
to follow in my steps.” 

He talks well, in the tones of a wisely disillusioned Heir 
Apparent who recognizes that the nineteenth century has 
long since been dead in Russia, and everywhere else for 
that matter. His words are sonorous and his phrases fluent, 
but how does one go about creating a "new set of healthy 
national ideals” while closeted in the village of St.-Briac? 
How does one distinguish between the "constructive” and 
the "destructive” elements of modern Russian life from 
the distance of the fourteen hundred miles that separate 

143 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

the rugged coast of Brittany from the land of huge red 
flags and pale anaemic faces? 

Nothing in the puzzling attitude of Grand Duke Cyril 
will be clear to outsiders unless the story of his life is told, 
for his is the case of a Pretender possessed with the feeling 
of self-identification with the Men of Destiny. 



4 

The eldest son of my cousin Vladimir and a nephew of 
Emperor Alexander III, he spent his youth as a typical 
Grand Duke. He tipped lavishly, he traveled often, he 
danced well. Built like an Apollo, kind-hearted and gay, he 
inherited a great deal of money from his father — a highly 
pleasing combination of social virtues which made him 
immensely popular and which left nothing to be desired 
even by the fastidious maitre d’hotel of the Ritz in Paris. 

We, the elders of the clan, felt slightly jealous of his 
endowments. Wherever we went we met people who ex- 
pected us to measure up to the standards of handsomeness 
and generosity established by our nephew Cyril. 

The idol of all women and the friend of most of the 
men, he ruled over the "y° un g er set” in St. Petersburg, 
resplendent in his uniform of the Sailors Regiment of the 
Imperial Guard, benevolent and towering. When the 
Russo-Japanese War broke out, he asked to be sent into 
action, it being the proper thing for a twenty-six-year-old 

144 



CYRIL AND HIS INVISIBLE EMPIRE 

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Grand Duke to do. He was not afraid of death though he 
naturally hoped to return and find his pleasant life and 
friends just where he had left them. 

He went through the war with a smile, wrote letters, re- 
ceived answers, and it took a Japanese torpedo to put an 
end to this complacent existence. One day — it happened 
in the spring of 1905 when he was an officer aboard 
H.I.M.S. Petropavlovsk — he found himself clinging to the 
remnants of a lifeboat, burned about the face, stunned 
and half-conscious. Out of eight hundred officers and men 
just five, Grand Duke Cyril among them, survived the 
explosion. 

No one can face death and remain unchanged. No one 
can be miraculously saved and escape conversion to fatal- 
ism. It never dawned on the Society that turned out in full 
force to celebrate the home-coming of their idol that the 
carefree young Grand Duke they had known and loved did 
go down on the Petropavlovsk and that a vastly different 
man was returning to St. Petersburg. They noticed his 
silence but they attributed it to the after-effects of the 
shock. He himself knew better. The memory of that gray 
day on the Pacific was to stay with him for years to come, 
an omen of Destiny and the assurance of a Great Future. 
Why otherwise should he have survived while all the others 
perished? 

As though to strengthen Grand Duke Cyril’s belief in 
his Star, he was given a second chance to taste the thrills 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



►J*- 



and the shocks of a miraculous escape, fourteen years after 
the sinking of the Petropavlovsk. This time he had his ex- 
pectant wife and his little daughter to think of. In the 
winter of 1919 the three of them crossed the frozen Gulf 
of Finland afoot, hotly pursued by the Bolshevik patrols 
and leaving behind the city where four members of our 
family had been shot but a few weeks before. Had the red 
pursuers taken a better aim or had there been a hundred 
feet more to run, the village of St.-Briac would have lost 
its opportunity of landing on the pages of Russian history. 



5 

I have never come across a superstition that has not 
proven helpful on at least one occasion: the more I learn 
about the Sound Realistic Policies of Democracy, the less 
I am inclined to depreciate the Lucky Star of my nephew 
Cyril. In fact, it is not necessary to be a Grand Duke or a 
royalist to realize the enviable strength of a man who be- 
lieves in his divine destiny. 

For one thing, this unshakable faith in the certainty of 
his ultimate triumph helps to keep both the Shadow Em- 
peror and his invisible Empire out of all sorts of mischief. 
Firmly convinced that his hour shall strike sooner or later, 
he stays aloof from all foolish attempts at organizing a 
premature uprising in Russia and is perfectly satisfied to 
sit in his study working on a "new set of healthy national 

146 



CYRIL AND HIS INVISIBLE EMPIRE 



ideals.” Whatever the practical value of the latter might 
be, there is no doubt that Grand Duke Cyril exercises a 
highly beneficial influence on the shabby cohorts of his 
destitute supporters. To them he symbolizes the possibility 
of a better future, of a different Russia where they will be 
able to apply their newly acquired knowledge of various 
crafts and enjoy the fruits of their present hard labors. 
Saddening as it is to read a letter from a dishwasher who 
wants to be made a Colonel, chances are that its author 
would long since have surrendered to despair had it not 
been for his implicit confidence in the miracle-working 
talents of his Sovereign in St.-Briac. 

And so the years roll by: the world goes on toward radi- 
cal changes and new forms, but the five hundred thousand 
Russian exiled monarchists continue along their own way 
which may eventually bring them either into the Promised 
Land or into a blind alley. They are willing to wait, and so 
is their Emperor. 

The days of Brittany are long and peaceful. Everybody 
gets up at sunrise, and at seven o’clock in the morning she 
whom her admirers address as "Your Imperial Majesty” 
can be found working in the garden. It is a large and im- 
pressive garden. Something in its assortment of flowers is 
vaguely suggestive of the English countryside, which is 
quite understandable because the wife of Grand Duke 
Cyril happens to be "Ducky,” the second of the four beau- 
tiful daughters of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the other 



147 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

» * « » $ « » $ » » 4 « > $ » ^1 > | < » | > > % *♦%»♦$»♦$♦»$> * $ ♦ » | «» > | l >%l *|« * $ »»*•»»*♦» * « « $ » »jj* *$*"*$♦■«$» 

three being known today as the Dowager-Queen Marie of 
Rumania, the Princess Hohenlohe-Langenburg and the In- 
fanta Beatrice of Spain. Royal bearing and poise are to be 
expected from the grand-daughters of Queen Victoria but 
when these four gather in the sunlit villa of St.-Briac it 
looks as if the matter-of-fact twentieth century had sud- 
denly receded into the glamorous days of the First Empress 
of India. Having spent their lives in four different but 
equally tumultuous countries of Europe, they have seen a 
lot and have taken part in more than one tragedy. They 
speak to each other in English which provides excellent 
practice for Princess Kira and Prince Vladimir, the two 
children of Grand Duke Cyril. It would be still more bene- 
ficial to the two youngsters were it possible to instill into 
their minds the total sum of wisdom and experience ac- 
cumulated by their aunts and parents. As it is, the children 
are permitted to discover for themselves that matches 
burn, courtiers lie and revolutionaries shoot. 

Kira is nineteen. According to the present plans she is 
to marry the elder son of the exiled King of Spain. Vladi- 
mir is thirteen. His mother brought him into the world 
immediately after escaping the bullets of the red soldiers. 
He is a huge and handsome boy, looking like an image of 
his grand-uncle Emperor Alexander III. He swims, plays 
tennis, drives a car and excels in other similar virtues im- 
ported to St.-Briac by his frequent guest and constant 
chum, Master Henry Loomis of New York. 

148 



CYRIL AND HIS INVISIBLE EMPIRE 

The tenants of St.-Briac — grown-ups and children alike 
— are not in a hurry to pack their baggage. Experienced 
masters of the art of waiting, they know that in order to 
preserve their mental balance they should concentrate ex- 
clusively on the day that faces them. Were they to get up in 
the morning and begin talking of the possibility of a sud- 
den change in Russia, their nerves would last but a few 
weeks. People in their position must have a safety-valve; 
none is more efficient than the rigorous pursuit of a well- 
established routine. The routine of St.-Briac is simple. 
While father attends to the affairs of State, mother paints, 
daughter reads or works in the garden, son prepares lessons. 
The evenings are spent together around the dinner table, 
unless the presence of a few guests warrants a game of 
contract. Occasionally they go to Paris for a short stay to 
visit their friends and do their shopping. The Grand Duke 
is an enthusiastic golfer and, if given another twenty years 
or so, may yet bring his score below eighty. 

I often think of them when crossing the Atlantic or 
watching the landscape of Florida through the window of 
my drawing room in the course of my annual pilgrimage 
South. It strikes me as being distinctly unfair that I, an 
older man, should live my life and go places while Grand 
Duke Cyril must sit and wait for the long-delayed turn of 
the tide. But then, I suppose, he will gain in solid rewards 
of History what he misses in transitory beauty of life. One 
cannot have both. 



149 






CHAPTER EIGHT 
AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 

i 

There was a matter of forty-four years between the date 
of the photograph on the mantelpiece of my apartment in 
Paris and that of the telegram in my hands. 

The daguerreotype was blurred by time and somewhat 
crude. It represented a warm-eyed girl of seventeen, wear- 
ing a heavy dress of silver and smiling restrainedly under 
the weight of a cumbersome crown of diamonds and 
pearls. Its inscription — gold-lettered and be-eagled — read: 
"H.I.H. Grand Duchess Anastasia Michailovna, daughter 
of H.I.H. Grand Duke Michael Nichokevich, Viceroy of 
the Caucasus, and bride of Frederick, Grand Duke of 
Mecklenburg-Schwerin ; taken in the city of Tiflis in the 
year 1879.” 

The telegram was marked "urgent.” It smelled of fresh 
ink and had arrived but a moment before. It was dated 
"April 7, 1923, Eze, Alpes-Maritimes, France” and it said: 
"Your sister died this morning, notify hour of your ar- 
rival.” 

I stood and stared — at the photograph and at the tele- 

150 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 



gram. The forty-four years seemed to have passed alto- 
gether too rapidly and though my sister was sixty-one and 
several times a grandmother, I felt I was going to attend 
the funeral of the girl in the silver dress. The death of the 
Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin mattered little. 

I wondered for a moment whether the French would let 
the Crown Princess of Germany come to Eze and join the 
Queen of Denmark at the grave of their mother — and 
then my thoughts traveled back to the old viceregal palace 
in Tiflis. This was the end, the end of our sturdy family 
and the disappearance of the last link connecting me with 
the great expectations of my childhood in the Caucasus. 
To be sure, there was still my elder brother Michael, 
rounding up his life in London where he had been exiled 
from Russia some thirty years ago, but I considered him a 
Britisher and I knew there could be nothing in common 
between me and his two English-born daughters, the 
Marchioness of Milford-Haven and Lady Zia Wehrner. 
Playmates and friends of the Prince of Wales, they were 
leading the carefree existence of the typical rich London- 
ers and the epic of the Romanoffs was used by them merely 
as an exciting background to accentuate their well- 
groomed and highly admired beauty. Nothing in them 
suggested Russians, none of them could have replaced my 
sister. Although married to a German and a lifelong favo- 
rite of International Society, she had always remained a 
Caucasian rebel, first and last. Her association with the 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



^ *! t « " t * 



Kaiser and the years spent in an atmosphere of sheltered 
flippancy failed to make her forget the mountains back of 
the viceregal gardens. When meeting Anastasia even after 
long periods of separation I had no difficulty in picking up 
the thread of a conversation interrupted a whole genera- 
tion ago in Tiflis. We guessed each other’s moods, we spoke 
in a language thoroughly incomprehensible to outsiders, 
and the glossary of terms coined by us for our own private 
use would have filled a thick volume. Whether I chided 
her for losing too much money in Monte Carlo or she in 
turn reprimanded me for falling a bit too often in love, 
she invariably treated me as Sandro the headstrong boy and 
the nightmare of the punctilious Masters of Ceremonies, 
while I continued to see in her that adorable dark-haired 
girl who had burst one day into my classroom, flushed 
with anger and short of breath, to declare that she would 
much rather put up with our tyrannical tutors and teach- 
ers than marry a heel-clicking German from Mecklen- 
burg-Schwerin. 



And now she was dead and was lying in state in her villa 
on the French Riviera, a stone’s throw from the casinos 
where she had gambled and danced, among strangers who 
had known her as the last of the "very grand” Duchesses, 
separated from her native country by revolution and torn 
away from her adopted country by war. 

My bags packed and the time of my departure ap- 
proaching, I looked once more at the photographs, the 



152 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 



chairs, the rugs and the little nothings on the tables. The 
apartment belonged to Anastasia who permitted me to 
occupy it while she herself was away from Paris. I did not 
expect to return there and I wanted to absorb all that re- 
minded me of her. In Eze I was to see her dead body, here 
in Paris I could feel the quality of her taste and the 
warmth of her beauty. For the second time in my life I 
was bidding good-by to the nineteenth century; for the 
first time during my exile I lost interest in tomorrow. I 
was ready to walk through any door, preferably an open 
door. 



2 

The Riviera was in full bloom and the rich fragrance of 
the purple and white flowers filling the sunlit air of the 
densely packed cathedral made me overlook the usual 
gruesomeness of a State funeral. The clear voices of a Rus- 
sian choir sang in solemn tones that rose above sorrow and, 
had it not been for a long row of bald-headed dignitaries, 
their medals shining garishly in the light thrown by tall 
candles, I might almost have been inclined to believe that 
I was witnessing a ceremony of truly Christian character. 
It was as it should have been at the end of an existence 
marked by a great deal of joy and laughter, and the mo- 
ment the funeral was over I went to Monte Carlo to spend 
a day in my sister’s favorite surroundings. 

I had not visited the blessed kingdom of roulette since 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



pre-war days but the sight of the massive Greek gamblers 
dozing under the coquet parasols of Ciro’s reassured me at 
once: here at least things were going on as usual. 

Stately mannequins of the Parisian dressmakers, wearing 
perhaps too heavy a load of multicolored jewelry to pass 
for bona fide society beauties, promenaded their blue-rib- 
boned Pekingeses in front of the Casino. Carefully laun- 
dered English lords were being wheeled around in their 
chairs discussing gout, sterling and the affairs of the Em- 
pire. And smart-looking yachts of the American multi- 
millionaires, squatting in the harbor below, made one dream 
of the far-away lands beyond the Mediterranean horizon. 
I openly envied the owners of those splendid yachts and 
thought that if placed in their position I would exercise 
considerably better judgment in choosing my ports of call. 

Sipping a brandy-and-soda and trying not to hear the 
buzz of the ceaseless conversation in the cafe, I was busily 
engaged in charting an imaginary tropical cruise when the 
persistent smiles of my neighbor on the left made me real- 
ize that he must be someone I knew. I looked at him ques- 
tioningly and half-reluctantly acknowledged his bow. His 
olive skin and a huge black pearl in his tie suggested an 
oriental dealer in antiques, and I decided that the sooner 
I dispelled his illusions as to my present financial position 
the better it would be for both of us. He got up and came 
to my table, wreathed in smiles and displaying several 
ruby-and-emerald rings on the thin long fingers of his 

154 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 

dark hands. "Possibly a dealer in Indian stones,” I said to 
myself and prepared a laconic speech. 

"May I take the liberty of robbing His Imperial High- 
ness of a few minutes of his valuable time,” he began, 
standing in front of me in a quasi-military fashion, so 
thoroughly out of place in a crowded sidewalk cafe, and 
then I felt that my initial fears had been only too well 
founded for no one, except an oriental trader, would use 
that French of the courtiers of the eighteenth century. 

"You may rob me of that,” I answered jestingly, "for 
the very good reason that I have nothing else left to be 
robbed of. This may sound discouraging to you but such 
is the awful truth.” 

He smiled more broadly still and said something to the 
effect that the disappearance of the riches of the world 
tends to develop the wealth of gifts with which we are 
endowed by the Almighty. 

"Quite so, my good man,” I agreed whole-heartedly, 
' but I doubt whether the men of your profession could 
possibly discount checks drawn on His bank . . .” 

For a moment he remained perplexed, then he smiled 
again. 

"The men of my profession,” he remarked quietly, 
"could not be interested in any other kind of checks.” 

This time I gave in. 

' Have a seat,” I said resignedly, "and let us try to trade 
tangibles for intangibles. What is it, emeralds or rubies?” 



155 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

He glanced at the tables around us and shook his head. 
"I would much rather prefer to be granted an audience 
by Monseigneur in the privacy of his apartment.” 

His persistence puzzled me. He must have been the Ori- 
ent’s greatest salesman to possess so impressive a personal- 
ity. In order to bring this strange interview to an end I 
explained that I had no apartment in Monte Carlo, that 
I was returning to Eze this very day and that there would 
be no sense at all in his wasting his time in following me. 
This seemed to sadden him. His smile disappeared and he 
sat silent. I hoped he would get up and leave. 

"Would it be too presumptuous on my part,” he sug- 
gested suddenly with an air of determination in his small 
black eyes, "to propose that Monseigneur should deign to 
call at my rooms in the Hotel de Paris?” 

"Now, listen,” I exclaimed impatiently. "Can’t you 
understand that my visit to your rooms would simply mean 
so much time wasted to both of us? No matter how gor- 
geous your stones might be, I have no money to buy them 
with. Do I make myself clear?” 

"Quite,” he replied with great seriousness, "and only 
now I see that Monseigneur was not joking and that he 
had really taken me for a vendor of stones. My name is 
Abuna Matheos. I felt certain that Monseigneur had 
recognized me when he acknowledged my bow . . .” 
Abuna Matheos? The name meant nothing to me but 
the thought of having perhaps offended a perfectly harm- 

156 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 

less man made me refrain from further attempts at avoid- 
ing him. 

"I am awfully sorry, Mr. Matheos,” I said with as much 
cheerfulness as I could muster under the circumstances, 
"but my memory is not what it used to be. It must be 
quite a little time since I saw you last.” 

Just twenty-one years. I had the honor of lunching in 
your palace in St. Petersburg in the spring of nineteen- 
two.” 

To be sure, I nodded but wished to God I could guess 
at least his nationality. "Have you ever had the occasion 
of visiting Russia since?” 

"Alas, monseigneur. The declaration of the World War 
caught me in Djibouti just as I was on my way to St. 
Petersburg to convey to His Imperial Majesty the mes- 
sages of my master, the great Negus Lidy Lasso . . .” 

This casual mentioning of the name of the Emperor 
of Abyssinia threw me into a panic because it meant that 
my "vendor of rubies” was in reality that venerable 
Ethiopian statesman whom I had personally introduced to 
the Czar and who was lavishly entertained by our Govern- 
ment. Apologies were in order but Mr. Matheos waved 
them aside. Now that his identity was properly established 
he could afford to laugh. So we both laughed on our way 
to the Hotel de Paris and as we passed a few acquaintances 
of mine I could have sworn that they suspected me of 
buying a ring or a rug. 



H7 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



3 

Our conference lasted three hours. Abuna Matheos 
proved to be a forceful speaker, and aside from a question 
asked now and then, I was only too glad to remain an 
utterly bewildered listener. From what I understood on 
that memorable afternoon in Monte Carlo — it took Mr. 
Matheos several more weeks to make me grasp the very 
involved details of his somewhat unusual proposition — I 
was expected by him and his master to help Abyssinia re- 
gain her rights to a certain part of the Holy Places in 
Jerusalem. . . . According to the Ethiopian statesman, I, 
and only I, was the one capable of forcing the Armenians 
and the Copts residing in Palestine to restore to the Abys- 
sinian clergy the Convent Dar-es-Sultan and the two other 
churches adjoining the Great Church of the Holy Sepul- 
chre. . . . To say that I was dumbfounded would be 
reaching the South Pole of Understatement. Not only did 
I know less than nothing of the interrelations between 
Copts, Armenians and Abyssinians in Jerusalem, but for 
the first time in my life I learned that the Russian Im- 
perial Government had spent five years and over a million 
dollars in unearthing in Turkey the various documents 
containing the proof of the Ethiopian claims. 

"Your Government,” explained Mr. Matheos, "suc- 

158 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 



ceeded in finding even the original firman of the Caliph 
Omar issued in the year six-thirty-six.” 

This failed to impress me. I saw no reason why the 
money of the Russian taxpayers should have been squan- 
dered in searching for the firmans of any Caliph and I 
admitted this much to my dark-skinned instructor in the 
history of the Holy Places. 

He raised his hands in despair. 

"To begin with, monseigneur, it was not your taxpay- 
ers’ money because every cent had been donated by your 
cousin Grand Duchess Elizabeth, and then do not forget 
that the moment Abyssinia was to come into possession 
of the twelve disputed plots of Holy Land, the Russian 
Orthodox Church was immediately to be ceded two of 
them for the construction of a chapel.” 

The lavish generosity of my cousin Ella did not surprise 
me: a fervent supporter of the Russian Orthodox Church, 
she must have taken such a great interest in the plight of the 
Abyssinians on account of the close similarity of our reli- 
gions, while the hope of gaining a foothold in the Holy Land 
could have prompted her, no doubt, to spend the whole 
of her vast fortune. All this, however, characteristic as it 
was of the pious ways of my relatives, had little to do with 
the year 1923 and with that particular Russian Grand 
Duke who had come to Monte Carlo for a few hours of 
sunshine and rest. It is never too late to learn and I wel- 
comed this opportunity to discover that the present rulers 

U9 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

of Abyssinia claim their descent from the son born to the 
Queen of Sheba after her friendly visit to King Solomon, 
but I continued to fear that both Abuna Matheos and his 
Government were grossly exaggerating my influence with 
the perfidious Copts and Armenians in Jerusalem. 

"As recently as seven years ago,” I said gently, "I could 
have interceded on your behalf with the Armenian Patri- 
arch in Palestine but I am afraid my voice would carry no 
weight with His Grace now.” 

Mr. Matheos got up, crossed toward the table and pro- 
duced a typewritten sheet of paper. 

"This,” he announced solemnly, "is the English transla- 
tion of the letter written in the year eighteen-fifty-two 
by our great Chief Ras Ali to Her Britannic Majesty Queen 
Victoria. I would like to have Monseigneur read it.” 

I gladly acquiesced. It was an interesting letter: 

From the Head of the Judges, Ali, the servant of God, the 
King of Kings, who is one in the Godhead and three in persons. 
May this reach the Queen of England! How are you? Are you 
well, equal to Heaven and Earth? I desire and expect to be in 
friendship with you; may you also desire my friendship. What 
is it that, whilst you exist, my inheritance is taken from me? 
Whilst every one abides in his inheritance, I am deprived of 
mine. Now do what is needed that I may not be deprived 
of my inheritance; for I have been deprived of the portion of 
ground belonging to Abyssinia in Jerusalem. . . . The matter 
is now in your hand. Send me word for whatever you want and 
I shall send it. . . . 



160 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 



“Did the Queen try to help Ras Ali?” I asked, visualiz- 
ing the quiet amusement of Queen Victoria. 

"She did.” 

"And?” 

"Even she could not make the Armenians return our 
possessions. . . .” 

"Now you see,” I said, rather elated. "And you expect 
an exiled Russian Grand Duke to succeed where the pow- 
erful Queen failed?” 

He looked at me hesitatingly and I understood that in a 
true oriental fashion he was postponing to the very end 
the expression of what was really on his mind. I took my 
hat and pretended I was leaving. Only then did he decide 
to broach the subject. 

"The documents that confirm our proofs,” he began, 
lowering his eyes, "are at present in the hands of a former 
agent of the Russian Imperial Government in Constan- 
tinople.” 

I waited. 

"This man,” he continued after a long pause, "flatly 
refuses to surrender them to anyone not related to the last 
Czar. Having acted by the orders of His Majesty and on 
the money of the late Grand Duchess Elizabeth, he feels 
in duty bound to keep the documents at the disposal of 
his masters’ heirs and assignees.” 

I waited. So did he. I was about to get up again when 
he took from the table the copy of Ras Ali’s letter and 
161 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



bringing it close to me pointed with his finger at the last 
line which read: "Send me word for whatever you want 
and I shall send it . 55 This gesture, prompted by his exces- 
sive anxiety, struck me as being a bit too crude for a suave 
oriental diplomat. It looked as if he expected me to de- 
mand a definite amount for each of the twelve disputed 
plots of the Holy Land. 

"The air of Monte Carlo has affected you quite unfavor- 
ably, Mr. Matheos,” I said severely, with the full intention 
of leaving this time. He rushed ahead of me and when we 
both reached the door he turned around to face me, fell 
on his knees, and began to talk. His meticulous French 
suddenly failed him and I missed most of what he said, but 
the sight of this bejeweled figure kneeling before a stranger 
in a Monte Carlo hotel made me realize the absurdity of 
my resentment. From what he had learned of white men 
he had concluded that there was always a certain price 
attached to their integrity; if an Imperial Government 
stood ready to accept its commission in plots of Holy 
Land, why should a mere Grand Duke take offense at the 
suggestion of a monetary reward for his friendly services? 
I patted Mr. Matheos on the shoulder and helped him to 
get up. His tie rearranged and his suave countenance re- 
stored, we settled in our chairs and proceeded to scheme 
against the Armenians. 



162 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 



4 

Sometimes I doubt that all this has really taken place. 
Were I to read of it in a book, I would write an insulting 
letter to the author who had dared concoct such a ludi- 
crous tale of thoroughly fantastic adventures. But then, 
there is a voluminous file of my "Abyssinian papers” 
packed in an oversized trunk in my apartment in Paris 
and there is likewise a long and dry report of the learned 
experts registered with the League of Nations in Ge- 
neva and pigeonholed in its "Sub-commission on Man- 
dates.” 

So it would appear that I am not dreaming, after all, 
and that as a direct result of my "friendly interference” 
in Constantinople the present Emperor of Abyssinia had 
come into possession of a number of Caliphs’ firmans and 
Kings’ letters, Patriarchs’ conclusions and Grand Vizirs’ 
decisions — all of them establishing for ever and ever the 
inalienable Ethiopian rights to the twelve plots of Holy 
Land, situated in the ancient city of Jerusalem and adjoin- 
ing the Great Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The open- 
ing lines of the report presented to the League of Nations 
by Professor Nolde of Paris and Professor Charles de Vis- 
sher of Brussels read: "Based on the documents gathered 
by H.I.H. Grand Duke Alexander of Russia and delivered 
by him to H.I.H. Taffari Mekonnen, the Heir Apparent 

163 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



to the throne of Ethiopia.” The word "gathered” had been 
used, no doubt, by those two legal luminaries in a purely 
conjectural sense because, aside from my negotiations with 
the former agent of our Government in Constantinople, 
I had indulged in no "gathering” whatsoever but the term 
"delivered” describes correctly though rather briefly the 
history of the six months spent by me as the guest of 
Emperor Haile Silassie I of Abyssinia, then still known 
under the name of Ras Taffari Mekonnen. 

It was an eventful and joyful day in my life of exile 
when I arrived in Marseilles to embark on a French steamer 
which was to take me as far as Port Said. I felt supremely 
happy at being given this providential chance to leave 
Europe. I remember my secretary saying, "Well, bid your 
farewell to the shores of France, we are now turning into 
the open sea,” and my answering enthusiastically, "Thank 
God! If we could only never come back!” 

I knew we were going to run straight into the season 
of tropical rains in Abyssinia, but what could have been 
worse than the intolerable annoyance of my last two 
months in Paris? The moment I had announced my inten- 
tion of accepting Ras Taffari ’s invitation, my apartment 
had become a magnet for all sorts of maniacs, promoters 
and adventurers. The former owners of the caviar fisheries 
in Russia wanted to be taken along because they claimed 
they could breed caviar-bearing sturgeons in the neighbor- 
hood of the Red Sea. The ever-present heroes of science 

164 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 



volunteered their time and services to study the peculiari- 
ties of the Ethiopian mosquito in order to put an end to 
the ravages of yellow fever. The representatives of Wall 
Street bankers professed an ingratiating interest in the 
Abyssinian claims to the Holy Places and thought they 
could advance the cause of the Good Old Country if 
promised a ninety-nine-year concession to develop the salt 
mines of Lake Tsana. I had never even heard of the ex- 
istence of Lake Tsana, but this fact did not prevent the 
ambassadors of three Great Powers in Paris advising me 
"unofficially and strictly confidentially” that my "am- 
bitious Tsana projects” were bound to create a long series 
of extremely unpleasant international complications. 
Someone, probably the selfsame disappointed representa- 
tives of the Wall Street bankers, spread the rumor that my 
trip was to be financed by a "powerful firm in New York” 
and it looked for a while as though the government of 
France might ask me to submit a written explanation of 
the motives of my voyage. In vain did I display the copy 
of the Caliph Omar’s firman. In vain did I talk of the 
illegal Armenian-Copt occupation of the Convent Dar-es- 
Sultan. So long as I persisted in disclaiming any designs on 
the salt mines of Lake Tsana, I was a schemer, a manipu- 
lator and a Man-To-Be-Watched. The climax of absurd- 
ity was reached on the eve of my departure when a 
wealthy Duke, a distant relative of mine, asked me point- 
blank whether it would be still possible for me to accept 



165 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

* * * * * ■ * * * * * * * * > * * » t « » t . » t . » t ' > t - » - t - - t - - t- •!• -t- 1 f 1 1- 1 $. , t , , t , 

the offer of his group. It seems they wanted to construct 
a mammoth dam and use the water of the same fatal Lake 
Tsana for the purpose of increasing the irrigated area in 
the Sudan on which cotton could be grown for the mills of 
Lancashire. The Abyssinians were Christians and so were 
the members of the wealthy Duke’s group. 



5 

The voyage was long and the heat oppressive, and the 
Imperial Train sent to meet me in Djibouti stopped each 
day at sunset for fear of the desert bandits, but the 
thought of having finally escaped the jackals of Paris made 
the roar of African lions almost endearing. 

At the station of Addis Ababa I was met with honors 
not accorded me since 1917. The music played, the soldiers 
presented arms and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, an 
elderly chap with cunning eyes and a flashing smile, 
greeted me in French and said I must be prepared for a 
thrilling surprise, a phrase which filled the heart of my 
secretary with dire misgivings because he hated Africa 
and wanted none of its surprises. A firm believer in mod- 
ern medical science, he had brought with him a trunkload 
of various pills supposed to protect us against all diseases, 
including the very air of Addis Ababa, and as we passed 
along the line of the guard of honor I noticed him swal- 
lowing a couple of his pills. The next moment we heard 

166 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 



the opening bars of an old Russian Military March and 
faced a group of our own compatriots. I was taken aback 
and the Prime Minister laughed contentedly. 

‘'There are seventy-five of them,” he explained with a 
shade of pride, "building our highways and serving in our 
army. Your people are no newcomers to Abyssinia. In fact 
it was a Russian tutor who supervised the education of our 
former Emperor Lidy Lasso.” 

"Which accounts, no doubt, for the fact of Lidy Lasso’s 
inability to keep his throne,” my secretary added under 
his breath, and I bit my lip hard. 

Outside of the station and on our way to the palace we 
witnessed what was touchingly planned to represent scenes 
of "genuine enthusiasm.” The crowds shouted and about 
a hundred horsemen galloped behind our car. Hardly a 
score of them could have pronounced my name or cared 
about my exalted person, but then orders are orders; be 
it in Addis Ababa or in Paris, an organized government 
would do well not to stake its reputation for hospitality 
on the spontaneous response of the population. This sort 
of thing has been going on for centuries, and I did not 
consider myself too great a hypocrite when, shaking hands 
with Ras Taffari a few minutes later, I thanked him for 
the extraordinary kindness of his subjects. 

"I shall never forget this beautiful reception in Addis 
Ababa,” I promised in my sincerest pre-war tones, won- 
dering how it happened that the seven years of revolution 
167 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

and exile had not entirely deprived me of my talent to lie 
with a straight face. 

"May the Almighty be praised for bringing a guest of 
such distinction to the land of his beloved children,” said 
Ras Taffari and bowed gravely. He spoke smoothly and 
possessed a pronounced grace of movement totally unex- 
pected in a shortish man of his sturdy physique. Watching 
his piercing eyes and shining white teeth, I thought of the 
story told me in Djibouti: In order to justify his seizure 
of the throne, Ras Taffari had flooded the country with a 
tricky composite photograph of his predecessor which 
represented the head of Lidy Lasso attached to the body 
of a Mussulman engaged in the reading of the Koran. . . . 
According to the same story, on having taken the hapless 
Lidy Lasso prisoner, he knelt in front of him and praised 
his venerable ancestors and only then issued orders to put 
the defeated Emperor in chains. 

In the course of this first meeting of ours and during 
the following three months not a word was said about the 
real purpose of my visit. I was Ras Taffari ’s guest, a "Chris- 
tian paying a friendly call on another Christian,” and as 
such I was given the full measure of Imperial Ethiopian 
Hospitality. I entered the Church of Stephanos and in- 
spected the mummified bodies of the glorious Emperors of 
Abyssinia; I saw the much-discussed Lake Tsana, which 
turned out to be an inland sea about sixty miles long and 
twenty-five miles wide; I drove in His Majesty’s motor- 

168 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 

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car of American make along the roads which in the season 
of rains could not be navigated even by oxen; and on my 
first night under the roof of Ras Taffari, returning to my 
rooms after dinner, I found two highly coiffed girls, age 
twelve, crouching on the floor at my bedside — a most 
magnificent Imperial gift which I declined regretfully, 
pleading fatigue and the peculiarities of my narrow- 
minded upbringing. 

6 

The season of rains began and my secretary was running 
short of his supply of magic pills and still no one seemed 
to be interested as to when I intended to transmit my col- 
lection of firmans and edicts. 

We dined each night with Ras Taffari but our conversa- 
tion was strictly limited to European subjects. An absolute 
monarch, if ever there was one, he felt puzzled by the ex- 
istence of Democracy and his questions disclosed a curious 
mixture of childishness and wisdom. He considered that 
no "Christian sovereign” should "permit” parliamentary 
elections, but at the same time his pitiless analysis of the 
real reasons of the World War testified to the shrewdness 
of his cynical mind. 

"Why did you Russians make war on Germany,” 
queried Ras Taffari, "when the real war should have been 
fought between Germany and England? Why did you not 

169 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



remain neutral and let your neighbors bleed each other 
white?” 

This was unanswerable, as undiluted common sense usu- 
ally is, and the more he talked about the mistakes com- 
mitted by my relatives, the clearer it dawned on me that 
we should have put an Abyssinian at the head of our Im- 
perial Council. 

One night, feeling a bit wearied by these constant ex- 
cursions into the past, I hinted to Ras Taffari that it would 
be advisable to switch our conversation toward the Holy 
Places. 

He weighed this suggestion for a moment and then said : 
"Once upon a time there was a British General who came 
here to discuss a new treaty. He was a nice man and we 
liked him. We would have signed that treaty had he been 
willing to respect our habits. As it was, he attempted to 
make us move to the tempo of London life and this we 
declined to do. According to our traditions, he should 
have waited for at least a month before broaching the 
subject of his mission but he was a mere Britisher, don’t 
you see. . . .” 

Ras Taffari stroked his black beard pensively and sighed. 
This gesture alarmed me. 

"So what happened to the General in the end?” 

"It is a sad story,” admitted Ras Taffari. "We had to 
give him a lesson in Ethiopian etiquette, so at first we said 
that a third cousin of mine had passed away during a 



170 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 

»$«»$»»}» t | < > | < >|< l $ l >| l > ♦ < > |< t$l » | « Ij fr t|> » ♦ « » | > » | < 

journey and that no business could be conducted during 
the period of mourning. We mourned for six weeks. Then 
the period of Lent arrived. It took another seven weeks. 
The spring came in the meanwhile and the day approached 
when, following the ancient Ethiopian tradition, the Im- 
perial Court and all the dignitaries of the country are 
supposed to take a strong dose of physic. It is called 'Kassa’ 
in our language and no audiences are being granted the 
week before and the two weeks following. . . .” 

There was a long silence in the dining room of the Im- 
perial Palace in Addis Ababa. I would have liked to learn 
the exact date of the beginning of Kassa but the horrible 
example of the British General made me keep my curiosity 
in check. 

And so another month passed. Our host was becoming 
interested in the Fascist regime in Italy and it seemed that 
from there we would finally be allowed to cross the Medi- 
terranean to Palestine. 

One morning — it was, to be exact, our one hundred 
and twenty-fifth morning in Ethiopia — we received a visit 
from the venerable Prime Minister. His eyes shone brightly 
and his grossly involved French phrasing disclosed the 
depth of his excitement. For the first time in the history 
of the descendants of the Queen of Sheba an Abyssinian 
Empress was willing to partake of food in the presence 
of foreigners: Zaudita-the-Divine, the daughter of the 
greatest Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II and the aunt of 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

our dear friend Ras Taffari, was inviting me to be the guest 
of honor at a State Dinner to be given the following night. 
No human words could have fitted this occasion, so I 
bowed in silence. When the gift of speech returned to the 
Prime Minister he remarked that now was as good a time 
as any to transmit to his master my collection of firmans, 
a most sensible motion which was seconded a bit too en- 
thusiastically by my deathly-pale secretary. 

"Careful, careful,” I said to him in Russian while keep- 
ing a mask of complete imperturbability. "The day of 
Kassa might be coming much sooner than we expect.” 

The next twenty-four hours were spent in studying 
the rules of etiquette. No precedents being available, it 
was left to a specially appointed committee of four Min- 
isters of the Crown to decide as to how a foreigner should 
behave when seated on the right hand of an Abyssinian 
Empress. The four wise men, frightened by the immensity 
of their task, made an appeal to my experience. Would I 
consent to be the Master of Ceremonies and the guest of 
honor at the same time? I said I would and decided to treat 
Zaudita-the-Divine the way I would treat a child taken 
to its first dinner in a public restaurant. This scored an 
instantaneous hit, both with Zaudita and with the trem- 
bling members of the Court. 

I began by complimenting my hostess on the arrange- 
ment of diamonds in her crown. She felt highly pleased and 
wondered whether I was satisfied with Ethiopian cooking. 



172 



AN ETHIOPIAN INTERLUDE 



"I suppose,” she said modestly, "you must be tired of eating 
chicken twice a day, but the season of rains makes it im- 
possible to procure a fresh supply of provisions from 
Djibouti.” I answered that I liked chicken if for no other 
reason than that I could not afford it any too often in 
Paris. She dropped her fork and looked totally bewildered. 
The idea of the Great White Czar’s brother-in-law not 
being able to afford the price of a roasting chicken was 
thoroughly incomprehensible to Zaudita. The Prime Min- 
ister volunteered an explanation, the nature of which re- 
mained unknown to me: speaking in the presence of his 
Empress he had to cover his face with a handkerchief in 
order not to "pollute” her with his "unclean breath.” 

The dinner over, I was invited to inspect the trained 
wild animals of Her Imperial Majesty and we mixed for 
a while with a score of lions, tigers and panthers walking 
at large in a spacious hall. My secretary tried to escape this 
additional sign of Monarchial Hospitality but was told by 
Zaudita that a man of his wide knowledge of the world 
would miss a great deal by not seeing the results of the 
training methods practised in Abyssinia. I could see his lips 
move in fervent prayer and when I asked him to pat the 
head of a particularly beautiful panther he turned livid 
and swallowed a couple of pills. 

The following morning I transmitted my celebrated file 
of documents to my friend Ras Taffari. The entire cere- 
mony lasted less than five minutes although it took me 



173 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



one hundred and twenty-seven days to arrive to it. My 
task was accomplished and it remained for the League of 
Nations to do the rest. When last heard from, in the sum- 
mer of 1932, its "sub-commission on mandates” was still 
promising a "prompt and equitable” decision. 

"How about staying another month in Addis Ababa?” 
asked Ras Taffari. "My aunt was charmed with your con- 
versation and she would love to see some more of you.” 

I reciprocated the friendly feelings of the Empress but 
it appeared that an affair of utmost importance was de- 
manding my immediate return to Europe. ... So we 
shook hands and promised to see each other very soon. 
Ras Taffari said he expected me to come back next year 
and to remain in Addis Ababa for a much longer period of 
time. He liked to hear my stories of the reign of my rela- 
tives because they helped him to decide what he should 
not do. 

Once more I listened to the familiar tunes of the old 
Russian Military March, realizing that perhaps for the 
last time in my life I was being treated with honors re- 
served for an Imperial person. It takes a little over six 
weeks of travel by boat, train and oxen to discover a peo- 
ple who still respect the past. 



T 74 






CHAPTER NINE 
THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

i 

It was in the early part of 1926, shortly after my return 
from Abyssinia to Paris, that I first met Alfred Lowen- 
stein, the financier. 

My telephone rang and a deep resonant voice said: 

"I am speaking on behalf of Mr. Alfred Lowenstein.” 
"Yes,” I returned, and the voice added: 

"Mr. Alfred Lowenstein of Brussels.” 

"Yes,” I repeated and immediately thought of the gold- 
and-platinum automobile, the size of a trolley car, which 
I had often seen parked in front of the Ritz, with its two 
equally glittering chauffeurs always eager to explain to 
the passers-by that this monstrosity belonged to Mr. Low- 
enstein of Paris. 

"My patron [the French for employer] would like to 
see you on a matter of great importance and utmost 
urgency,” explained the representative of the man whose 
fabulous wealth, according to European gossip, favorably 
compared with that of King Midas or John D. Rockefel- 
ler Jr. 



175 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



I felt flattered though somewhat surprised. It was nice 
of Mr. Lowenstein to wish to see me and I did not doubt 
that the subjects occupying his mind must perforce be 
"great” and "utmost” in their ponderousness — but what 
on earth could I do for the Napoleon of European after- 
war promoters? 

"Just a moment.” I covered the receiver with my hand 
and turned toward my secretary. "What do you make 
of it?” 

He shrugged his shoulders. 

"Not a thing. I do happen to know though that his 
house in Brussels is built of black marble and that he claims 
to have cornered the artificial silk industry of the world.” 

"So what? Do you suppose he now wants my advice as 
to the best way to lose both his house and the control of 
his industry?” 

"One never knows.” 

My secretary was obviously wasting his brilliance; a 
man of his helpfulness should have been drafted by the 
Council of the League of Nations. I removed my protect- 
ing hand from the receiver and agreed to meet Mr. Lowen- 
stein, which seemed to please his representative consider- 
ably. 

"Thanks a lot,” he said. "My patron will be certain to 
appreciate your courtesy. I shall have our car waiting at 
your address tomorrow at two p.m. sharp.” 

"Don’t do that!” I exclaimed spontaneously, shudder- 

176 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

* » fr > fr « fr «fr >fr * >fr * »fr»fr*fr 

ing at the thought of riding through the streets of Paris 
in Mr. Lowenstein’s platinum-hooded monster. "I’d much 
rather come by myself.” 

"But it is nearly twelve miles from Paris to Le Bourget.” 
"Why Le Bourget? Do you mean, the airdrome of Le 
Bourget.” 

"Exactly. That’s where one of Mr. Lowenstein’s air- 
planes will be waiting for you.” 

"Are you joking? Or is your patron in the habit of 
holding his conferences at a certain altitude?” 

"Not quite; but don’t you see, he shan’t know till to- 
morrow whether he will receive you in his house in Brus- 
sels or in his villa in Biarritz. In either case our pilots will 
see to it that you have a nice and comfortable voyage.” 
He added something pertaining to the type of motors 
"exclusively” employed by Mr. Lowenstein’s air fleet and 
hung up while I was still searching for adequate words to 
express my amazement. 

I swore. Both he and his master must have borrowed 
their conference manner from the heroes of the Holly- 
wood films. The only logical thing for me to do was to 
ignore the entire occurrence and not to answer my door- 
bell the next afternoon. But fate willed otherwise. It so 
happened that wherever I went that day I always collided 
with Mr. Lowenstein’s name. It glared at me from the 
headlines of the papers which described his "noble deed” 
of granting a hundred-million-franc loan to the Govern- 

177 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

ment of Belgium, and the mammoth posters pasted on the 
walls along the Grands Boulevards were expressing hope 
that this "glorious example” would inspire the patriotic 
zeal of the French financiers. My curiosity aroused, I de- 
cided to call on an old friend of mine, a famous Parisian 
banker, and ask him what he knew of that remarkable 
man of Brussels. He laughed a laugh of animosity mixed 
with envy. 

"So,” he said, "even you are becoming excited about 
Mr. Kannitverstan.” 

"What did you call him?” 

"Oh, it is just a pen-name we have given him in this 
bank. Do you remember that venerable story about a for- 
eigner who came to Amsterdam?” 

"I don’t think I do. What happened to him?” 

"Just this: each time he asked the natives who was the 
owner of this or that particular building or factory he 
invariably received the selfsame reply, 'Kan nit verstan,’ 
meaning in the vernacular, 'I do not understand you.’ 
Well, it seems that at the end of his first week in Holland, 
our foreigner sighed and exclaimed wistfully, 'That man 
Kannitverstan must be stupendously rich to possess all that 
valuable property. . . .’ ” 

"In other words,” I said, noticing the bitterness with 
which my friend had told his little story, "you are inclined 
to question Mr. Lowenstein’s achievements. What is it, 
professional jealousy or first-hand information?” 

178 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

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"Neither,” he answered gruffly. "Fancy my questioning 
the reputation of a fellow of whom no one had ever heard 
up to the moment of the Armistice but who now is able 
to dictate his terms to the Governments of powerful coun- 
tries. . . . After all, I am merely a banker, not a miracle 
worker. It took my ancestors two hundred years to build 
this bank, and the worst of it is that I and mine will be 
left holding the bag when the last is heard of Alfred 
Lowenstein. I fear it will be our task to pay for the havoc 
wrought by all those super-geniuses!” 

"So you would not advise me to meet him, would you?” 

"By all means! And do it in a hurry too because it looks 
to me as though the golden age of the jazz financing is 
drawing to an end. Read your Shakespeare: 

'The earth hath bubbles, as the water has 

And these are of them. Whither are they vanish’d?’ ” 

"You must be doing a great deal of reading,” I said 
tentatively. 

"That’s the best I can do these days,” he replied sardoni- 
cally. "We moth-eaten, old-fashioned fellows dare not 
compete with Kreugers and Lowensteins. We crawl — they 
fly!” 

"That’s it,” I admitted. "He insists I go to him by 
air . . .” 

"Why not?” grumbled my friend. "God knows, he deals 
in it in sufficiently large amounts.” 



179 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



2 

The pilots — three of them — met me at the entrance 
gates of Le Bourget. It appeared that Mr. Lowenstein 
wanted me to choose between a Handley-Page, a Fokker, 
a Yoisin, a . . . 

"Now, wait, wait,” I interrupted, my eyes still hurting 
from looking at too much gold and platinum inside the 
monster-car. "Don’t you think it is for you men to decide 
as to which one of your airplanes is in better shape?” 

They looked pained, almost indignant. 

"What we meant,” said a tall dictatorial Englishman, "is 
that in case you have some writing or dictation to do en 
route, you would be more comfortable in the Fokker as 
it contains a fully equipped office. On the other hand, if 
you are interested to view the panorama, you should take 
the two-seater Voisin.” 

The choice between dictation and panorama settled in 
favor of the latter, I inquired whether I would be per- 
mitted to learn as to where we were going. 

"Is it Brussels or Biarritz?” 

"I have sealed orders,” explained the Englishman. "The 
pilot in charge will open them at the altitude of two thou- 
sand feet, as usual.” 

"As usual? Is the war still going on?” 

No, he knew all about the war having been won some 

180 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

eight years ago but Mr. Lowenstein was reluctant to have 
the movements of his guests watched by the reporters. 

"A chap cannot be any too careful when working for 
a man of Mr. Lowenstein’s importance,” concluded the 
Englishman. 

I sighed. I was beginning to hate the sound of that word 
“importance.” 

We took off in an atmosphere charged with secrecy and 
much whispering between the employees of Le Bourget. 
The pilot-in-charge asked me whether I had ever flown 
before and I understood that my identity remained undis- 
closed to him and his comrades. When the altitude of two 
thousand feet was reached by us, he tore open a large sealed 
envelope and passed to me a thick sheet of watermarked 
paper. It read “Biarritz” and was signed with just one 
letter “L.” I felt relieved: the pleasure of spending a few 
hours in Biarritz was well worth going through this ludi- 
crous comedy. 

I expected that we would land at Bayonne, it being 
the only town possessing an airdrome in the extreme south- 
west of France, but I underestimated Mr. Lowenstein’s 
vast possibilities. Having flown some three hundred fifty 
miles, we came down on a spacious landing directly ad- 
joining what Mr. Lowenstein called his “little week-end 
place” but what looked to me like the largest country 
house this side of Suez. 

Another voyage, this time through an enfilade of glitter- 

181 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

♦%» * $ »•* $ * * $ » » $ « « $ » >4 « > $ » i $ « » % » > | < ♦$*■■»%»♦$♦ ij fr » j j> » | « A A > * <»*♦ 

ing rooms and past monumental butlers, and I was ushered 
into the presence of Alfred Lowenstein. He stood behind 
a surprisingly small desk in his study, an unprepossessing 
man in his middle forties, dressed in heavy English tweeds 
and conveying an impression of extreme nervousness and 
restlessness. I noticed how his face twitched when he made 
an attempt at a welcoming smile, and this did not seem to 
fit into my preconceived picture of a boisterous newly- 
rich. Nothing in his appearance suggested that subcon- 
scious arrogance of huge wealth which is so peculiar to 
both Wall Street operators and European war-profiteers. 
He could easily have passed for a small German merchant 
on a holiday but his French sounded unmistakably Belgian. 
It was the French of a man who had begun to pay atten- 
tion to grammar rather late in life. 

"Hate to cause you all this trouble,” he said rapidly, 
swallowing most of the words and leaving the endings of 
his phrases to my imagination, "but you see . . . It’s like 
this . . . The day before yesterday ... Or was it last 
week? No, it was the day before yesterday, I heard won- 
derful things about you, marvelous things. Do you know 
who is your greatest friend? Who loves you? Who would 
like to help you?” 

No, I did not know anyone of that description. I wish 
I did. 

He laughed and waved his hands. 

"Don’t blame you . . . Not for a second. . . . Bitter 

182 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

<§» » f l > | « >|» » $ « l | l » | « » | < » | « » | » » | « » | « » | « » | « » | « > * < lj|> > | l l|l >|l «$*«$»« $ « >|> t|i ijfr 

bread of exile . . . Memories of the past. . . . Most 
damnable situation of all . . . But take the advice of a 
man who knows — courage! Not everything is lost yet. . . . 
I say, courage! Before you leave this house, you will be- 
come a new man. . . . Will never need anything again 
as long as you live . . . Isn’t it peculiar that we two 
should meet like this?” 

It was peculiar but I still waited to hear the name of 
my mysterious faithful friend. 

"Ah!” His face twitched again, imitating a smile. "I 
really shouldn’t disclose his name but I will ... I must 
because we two are going to do great things together. Your 
friend who talked to me about you is none other than His 
Majesty ” 

And he mentioned the name of an European sovereign 
well remembered for his heroic conduct during the war. 
He lied, of course, because there was no reason why the 
person in question should have talked about me with any- 
one, least of all with Alfred Lowenstein. 

“It was awfully sweet of His Majesty to give me such 
a splendid record,” I said meekly. "I shall write him a letter 
and thank him for it.” 

He frowned. 

"I wouldn’t do it if I were you. Ours was a secret, 
strictly secret conference. His Majesty asked me to help 
his Minister of Finance and I naturally volunteered to put 
my entire fortune at his disposal, every franc of it. Money 

183 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



» fr «fr »fr » fr » fr > | < if*4» «f» 



doesn’t interest me any more. I’ve lots of it, barrels of it, 
tons of it. If I lived to be a thousand I wouldn’t be able 
to spend even a fraction of my fortune. I am not like 
those silly Americans who die at their desks counting their 
dollars. The Americans!” He sneered and snapped his fin- 
gers. "I showed them how to make money, didn’t I? I 
showed them who is the real master of the rayon and the 
copper industries, didn’t I?” 

I nodded. I had to because he was waiting for it. For 
all I knew he might have shown the Americans all that 
and more. 

"But that’s all in the past,” continued my eloquent host. 
"Now that I am what I am, I have three ambitions to 
achieve. First of all, I decided to win the Epsom Derby, 
not later than in spring nineteen-thirty. I am allowing my- 
self five years to turn this trick.” 

That was very prudent of Mr. Lowenstein to give him- 
self sufficient time. I wondered, however, whether a man 
of even his persuasive powers could force a horse to come 
first to the finishing post at Epsom Downs. 

"Are you thinking of buying yearlings?” I inquired, 
hoping he was not mistaking me for my cousin Dimitry, 
celebrated for his knowledge of horseflesh. 

"Decidedly not,” he answered with a deprecating grim- 
ace. "Where is the guarantee that my yearlings would grow 
up to be real champions?” 

There was none, I readily agreed. 



184 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

*f» *f» *t* > t t r l* r fr *t' "t* "I* "fr •t* *1* "♦* *t* * $ » l fr » fr » t * " fr *t* » £ »fr 

"No, my dear Grand Duke,” said Mr. Lowenstein, tap- 
ping me gently on the sleeve. "I shall use entirely different 
methods. I will simply buy each spring, for the next five 
years to come, all the best entries in the Epsom Derby who 
look like probable winners. . . . Pretty good idea, eh?” 
I swallowed hard and suggested timidly that there might 
be some English owners who would refuse to sell their en- 
tries in the Epsom Derby. 

"Know them all, including Aga Khan,” said Mr. Lowen- 
stein. Just a question of money, nothing else. A hundred 
thousand pounds more or less, and you shall see me leading 
the Derby winner into the Royal Enclosure. Now then, 
to proceed with my other two ambitions, and that’s where 
I will need your assistance.” 

He lowered his voice, looked me straight in the eyes 
and said briskly: 

"I want a title and a position in International Society.” 
My recent experience with the Government of Ethiopia, 
who expected me to restore to them the Abyssinian Con- 
vent in Jerusalem, had considerably diminished my ca- 
pacity for registering surprise, but I was taken aback by 
this new development in my career. 

"A title and a position in International Society,” I re- 
peated automatically, "and that’s what made you bring 
me to Biarritz. I thought I heard your representative men- 
tion some affair of great importance and utmost urgency.” 
"Nothing could be more important, and as for urgency, 

185 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

— the quicker the better! I understand that the owner of 
the Derby winner is usually a titled person of the highest 
social standing.” 

"Quite so,” I confirmed, certain by then that the poor 
fellow had lost his mind. "But why call on me? I do not 
distribute titles and I have never been much of a society 
leader. What can I do?” 

"A lot. Help me break the social barriers in Paris and in 
London and I myself shall take care of the rest. Here is the 
list of people I want to be my week-end guests. Should I 
succeed in getting them here, I am established with every- 
body and I’ll have no difficulty in getting a title from my 
own Government!” 

I looked at the list. It read like a condensed edition of 
the Almanach de Gotha. No one lower than a Viscount 
was permitted to enter the ranks of Mr. Lowenstein’s 
prospective week-end guests. 

“Very nice names,” I complimented my host. 

"First class. This list has been compiled by two senior 
diplomats in the Foreign Office. Now then, let’s talk busi- 
ness.” 

"Business?” 

"Yes. I stand ready to pay you two thousand dollars a 
week for a period of five years.” 

“In return for which I am expected to do what?” 

He took a sheet of paper from the desk and passed it 
to me. Then he threw himself back in his chair and lighted 

186 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

a cigar. He looked as if he felt that his job was done and 
that mine was about to commence. 

"What is it? An invitation?” I asked, seeing that the 

opening phrase requested "the pleasure of presence 

at a garden party to be given,” etc. 

"How do you like the signature?” 

"The signature?” 

I inspected it and gasped. It read: "Alfred Lowenstein, 
per Alexander the Grand Duke of Russia”! 

"And that’s all I expect of you,” he said, puffing his 
enormous black cigar. "Just sign my invitations! Not 
much work, considering the salary I am willing to pay, 
now, is there?” 

So sincere was he in his fascinating ignorance, so in- 
structive was it to watch that recognized financial genius 
of Europe disclose both his contempt and his adoration 
for a Society founded before his days, that it would have 
been utterly childish on my part to create a scene or at- 
tempt to chastise him. I laughed my first good laugh since 
1914 and we parted good friends. I promised to keep in 
touch with his progress toward the Royal Enclosure; he, 
on the other hand, felt convinced that I would reconsider 
my foolish decision not to accept his magnificent offer. 

"You’ll hear from me very soon,” he said as we were 
shaking hands in front of the silver-winged Yoisin. "I give 
you two weeks to think it over but then I’ll have to take 
my next best bet.” 



187 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



3 

His "next best bet” turned out to be a young French 
Duke, bearer of one of the oldest names in the world and 
a nephew of a popular reigning King to boot. It seems 
that the young man’s parents, enraged by his escapades, 
had cut down his allowance and he retaliated by accepting 
Mr. Lowenstein’s offer. 

I would never have believed such a thing could actually 
occur but there was an invitation to the selfsame greatly 
discussed week-end party in Biarritz lying on my desk 

and signed — "Alfred Lowenstein, per the Duke de .” 

Attached to it was a short note: “I suppose you will be 
sorry now,” wrote my magnanimous friend, "particularly 
if I tell you that I got this youngster for a fourth as much 
as I was willing to pay you.” 

I read and reread that fabulous invitation. It bore all 
the earmarks of a potential social scandal and I expected 
fireworks of gossip, storms of indignation and solemn pro- 
tests from the young Duke’s irate relatives and friends. I 
waited in vain. Had a similar event taken place before 
1914, Mr. Lowenstein’s exalted hireling would have been 
blackboarded by every club throughout Europe, but now 
people just shrugged their shoulders and said: "What 
would you? It is better to be a freak’s social secretary than 
not to have any money at all. With our poor franc having 

188 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

«$» ♦ *$» «$* 4* *$* *$* *$* 4* 4* 4* 4* 4* 4* 4* 4» 4* >|< 4* 4+4*4*4*4+4* 4* 4 * 4 M f > 4 > 4‘4*4 > 4 > 4 l 4 , 4 > 4 , 4 t 4 > 4 > 4 t 4 t 4 > 
lost nine-tenths of its former value, the young boy is to be 
complimented on his business acumen. After all, he will 
merely be collecting from Lowenstein what Lowenstein 
took away from the rest of us.” That was all. No one cared 
to conjecture what Aristocracy might do next should the 
perfidious franc take another tumble. 

I did not attend the famous week-end party but almost 
every one of my friends did. The advance guard of the 
First Crusade could not have boasted of finer names. The 
list of the titled men and women who answered the call 
issued by the young Duke may have been mistaken for a 
roster of the descendants of the First Crusaders gathered 
in convention at a villa in Biarritz. 

This exceedingly "broad-minded” attitude of Society, 
explainable as it was in that summer of financial panic in 
France, was to receive an additional impetus a few weeks 
later, when it became known that Ivar Kreuger had ex- 
tended a substantial loan to the Government of Poincare. 
He was the only capitalist in Europe who continued to 
believe in the stability of France! The vernacular papers 
experienced a considerable difficulty in spelling the name 
of their country’s benefactor but otherwise it was con- 
sidered quite proper and just that a Swedish manufacturer 
of matches should save the Republic of France. 

When reading the news of Kreuger’s promotion to 
Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor I wondered a bit 
as to how the triumph of his bitter Scandinavian rival 

189 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



would affect my ambitious friend of Brussels. So great was 
the difference in the make-up of these two men that at the 
time it was impossible to detect the striking similarity of 
their methods. Thinking of them from a distance, I realize 
that the polished Viking and the uncouth Belgian belonged 
to the selfsame breed that had engendered Hugo Stinnes 
in Germany, Clarence Hatry in England and a dozen or 
so of the geniuses of stock syncopation in Wall Street. 
Born on the day of the Armistice, they passed away to- 
gether with the 1920’s. None of them survived the Jazz 
Era, and even if a matter of eight long years does separate 
the collapse of the Empire of Stinnes from the suicide of 
Kreuger, this fact should merely be credited either to the 
intelligence of the Germans or debited to the stupidity of 
the American investors. With Stinnes, Kreuger and Low- 
enstein resting in their graves and with Hatry serving his 
twenty-year sentence in jail, no one is left in Europe to- 
day to keep up the rhythm of the 1920’s. The bubbles of 
the earth have vanished. 



4 

All this appears clear and simple now: nothing is insolv- 
able for our hindsight. But in the summer of 1926, when 
I first met Alfred Lowenstein and renewed my former ac- 
quaintance with Kreuger, it would have taken a much 
better analyst than myself to predict the ultimate end of 



190 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 



the two conquerors. I always had a great liking for 
Kreuger. He talked well, he behaved like a real gentleman 
and possessed that very rare talent of entering into the 
interests and adopting the terminology of whomever he 
happened to be dealing with at the moment. He was in- 
troduced to me shortly before the war during my summer 
stay in London. In the following years I heard nothing of 
him, except what I read in the papers about his gigantic 
business enterprises. It was with considerable surprise and 
no small pleasure that I discovered when going through 
my mail one morning a letter bearing his signature. He said 
he had just finished reading the French edition of my book 
Spiritual Education and would like to have a talk with me. 
It happened during the same week when he granted a loan 
to the French Government and I was doubly pleased to 
think that a man as busy as Kreuger should find sufficient 
time to bother with something so far removed from money 
matters. I invited him to have dinner in a quiet restaurant 
in the older part of Paris where I knew we would not be 
disturbed by too many idle gossipers. When riding in his 
car I frankly told him that I could scarcely believe that 
he was really interested in spiritualism. He smiled and said 
that his success on this planet did not prevent him from 
being curious about the hereafter. He wondered whether 
my theories of the communion with spirits were based on 
actual experience or whether I might have been misled 
by an unscrupulous medium. I explained to him both the 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



technique and the results of my own experiments and then 
he suddenly said: 

"If you are not engaged tomorrow night, would it be 
too much to ask you to show me how it is done?” 

I said "yes” though I felt embarrassed, knowing how 
utterly useless it is to conduct a spiritualistic seance in the 
presence of skeptics and unbelievers. It was agreed that he 
would come to my apartment the next night right after 
dinner. 

As we were getting out of his car in front of the restau- 
rant, I noticed a huge object glittering in the darkness. 
Our chauffeur put his lights on and I recognized the 
famous vehicle of Alfred Lowenstein. It struck me as 
strange. It did not seem to be a proper eating place for a 
man who had decided to win the Epsom Derby. Possibly, I 
thought, it might be his secretary or chauffeur. We went 
in, and there, at a small table adjoining the entrance, seated 
in solitude in front of a cocktail, I saw the Great Man 
from Brussels. This was too remarkable to be just a plain 
coincidence and I looked at Kreuger questioningly. He met 
my glance unperturbed, in a thoroughly innocent man- 
ner. 

"Something wrong?” he asked. 

"Nothing, except that Alfred Lowenstein appears to be 
likewise a lover of out-of-the-way restaurants.” 

Kreuger looked all over the room and only then turned 
toward the table which was directly facing us. 



192 




International News Photo 



IVAR KREUGER 

‘A victim, possibly. ... A scapegoat, probably. . . . But not a crook. . . . 







International News Photo 



MYRON T. HERRICK 

. . . Politics being what they are, it is quite astounding that men of his caliber are per- 
mitted to serve their country at all” 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

"To be certain,” he said casually, "that man does look 
like Lowenstein, at least like his pictures.” 

"Have you never met him?” 

"No,” he answered with a half -smile, "although I dare 
say he knows all about me.” 

During this time Lowenstein was concentrating on the 
contents of his cocktail. He was possibly trying to solve 
the problem as to why the maraschino cherry floats on the 
surface instead of sinking to the bottom. Not until we 
were seated at the table opposite did he raise his shifty eyes. 
Then he registered a colossal surprise. He waved his hands, 
shouted "hello,” twitched his face in a near-smile, and 
finally jumped up and made for our table. 

"Well,” I said, "after all these years you are going to 
shake hands with your rival.” 

"I don’t mind,” said Kreuger. "I really have nothing 
against him. Why don’t you invite him to join us?” 

A malicious thought crossed my mind. It would have 
been a fine joke on both great schemers just to shake hands 
with Lowenstein and send him back to his table. . . . 
Alas! I was never granted that opportunity. 

"Trust a Russian to arrange a meeting between a Swede 
and a Belgian,” exclaimed Lowenstein, coming to us with 
extended arms. 

"What that Russian should really have done,” I said, 
"was to give sealed orders to Mr. Kreuger’s chauffeur with 
instructions not to open them until under way.” 



193 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



This was another joke wasted by me that evening. So 
eager were the two men to be friendly and so difficult must 
it have been for them to decide who should make the first 
step, that not until the liqueurs had been served did they 
stop the exchange of compliments. Then Kreuger said: 
"Why not invite Lowenstein to our seance tomorrow 
night?” 

This was too much for me to swallow. I protested vehe- 
mently and minced no words in suggesting that they 
should meet again elsewhere. We fought till midnight. 
Naturally I lost. 

"Only remember,” I warned Lowenstein, "the spirits are 
not interested in the rayon industry.” 

"Don’t I know it?” he said. "They spend their entire 
time counting Kreuger’s matches.” 



5 

Looking back on that hot and stuffy summer night of 
1926, I have no undue illusions about the motives which 
had brought Kreuger and Lowenstein to my modest apart- 
ment in Paris. I recognize that, feeling grateful to me for 
having acted as their unconscious intermediary, they 
wanted to be polite and keep up the bluff. And yet, as I 
remember the clear eyes and fine face of Kreuger, I do 
think that he at least was not entirely faking interest. 
There is a great deal in the Scandinavian character which 



194 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 

»>* ■ fr "I* »fr >fr >fr > fr «fr «fr ►$» «fr »fr «$» « fr * 1 * ^ 4* 4*4* 4* 4* 

resembles the Russian; both are hiding a genuine spiritual 
zeal under a mask of cynicism and their reluctance to ac- 
cept facts not proven by science only testifies to their 
deep-rooted thirst for real knowledge. 

Had it not been for the presence of Lowenstein, we 
would possibly have succeeded in getting "results,” but he 
came to have a laugh and he was asking incessantly 
whether the "spirit of the late Carnegie” would consent 
to advise him on the future of the steel industry. Finally 
I gave up in disgust and we spent the balance of the eve- 
ning discussing the political situation in Europe. As I 
recall it, both my guests were of the opinion that the key 
to the stability of the world lay in a Franco-German 
alliance. Neither of them predicted the possibility of a 
crisis in America, then still three years away. A stranger 
listening to the conversation of Kreuger and Lowenstein 
would have been somewhat disappointed in his expecta- 
tions. They talked in a vein typical of the i92o’s and saw 
no shadows on the horizon. 

When I met Kreuger last, in the spring of 1930 in New 
York, I recalled to him his optimistic speeches and asked 
how a man of his tremendous experience could have been 
so blissfully unaware of the approaching debacle. "I still 
am optimistic,” he said with conviction. "We are going 
through a crisis but we shall live to see a still greater pros- 
perity. I have never been a stock exchange manipulator 
as our friend Lowenstein was and that is why I refuse to 



195 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



bow to this hysterical Market. Lowenstein perished just 
because he attempted to substitute the cunning of a gam- 
bler for the grit of a builder. He could have lasted a year 
or so more, but in the end it would have been the same — 
a jump from an airplane or a bullet in the brain. . . . He 
and his like never win.” 

I never saw Kreuger again. I confess willingly and 
frankly that up to that March Saturday of last spring in 
Paris when the afternoon papers published extras announc- 
ing his suicide I continued to think that it was quite a 
lucky thing for this topsy-turvy world of ours that a man 
of Ivar Kreuger’s caliber was still among the living. For 
that matter, even today, in the face of all sensational 
revelations and bewildering discoveries, I refuse to believe 
that he was just a crook. A victim, possibly. A scapegoat, 
probably. But not a crook. 

He outlived Lowenstein by three years and eight months 
and what he saw during that time must have made him 
regret that he had waited so long. His Belgian rival had at 
least one consolation: whether he jumped from that air- 
plane in July, 1928, or whether his dead body was thrown 
into the Channel by his assassins — the Scotland Yard in- 
vestigation revealed that it would take three giants to open 
the door of Lowenstein’s Fokker in flight — he very nearly 
achieved his ambition No. 1! True enough, it was the 
Grand Steeplechase of Paris instead of the Epsom Derby, 
but he did hear his glittering gold colors cheered by the 

196 



THE BUBBLES OF THE EARTH 



♦ «|+ 



crowds, even if he had to buy the winning horse from its 
former owner the day before the race at a fantastic price 
and even if he had to be satisfied with receiving the ac- 
colade from a mere President of a Republic instead of a 
King. "Magellan” was the name of the horse and the race 
was run at Auteuil, on June ij, 1928. Calvin Coolidge 
was President of the United States and General Motors 
had just struck a "new high for all times.” 



197 



CHAPTER TEN 



THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 

i 

They both lived to be eighty. 

When the elder of the two died, they buried Old Eng- 
land. When the younger followed three years later, the 
last of Imperial Russia became extinct. 

Both were Danish, by birth and character. Had anyone 
called them Danish to their faces, both would have been 
mortally offended. Alexandra was British, more British 
than the Union Jack. Marie was Russian, more Russian 
than the bells of Moscow. There is no end to the adaptabil- 
ity of a Danish Princess. 

I could never think of them separately. Whenever peo- 
ple asked, “How is your mother-in-law?” I answered al- 
most automatically, “She is fine, she has just received a 
lovely letter from her sister.” 

Not before the very end, not until the day when in the 
Cathedral of Copenhagen I saw her lying in her coffin, 
did it dawn on me that my poor mother-in-law had never 
been “fine” and that the three thousand-odd letters re- 
ceived by her from her English sister — one each week, for 

198 



THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 



a period of over sixty years — had made her realize on three 
thousand-odd occasions the appalling difference between 
the two Empires. 

Back in the 1860’s the choice between the Prince of 
Wales and the Cesarevich was a toss-up. Both matches 
were highly desirable from the point of view of the Crown 
of Denmark. Both Princesses were sweet and attractive. 
A last-minute change in the plans of the respective Chan- 
celleries could easily have sent Alexandra to St. Peters- 
burg and chaos, and brought Marie to London and har- 
mony. When they parted at the station in Copenhagen, 
Alexandra envied Marie: the Romanoffs were fantastically 
rich and there was no Queen Victoria in Russia. 

The gods were not to blame : they went out of their way 
to warn Marie. Her fiance, Cesarevich Nicholas Alex- 
androvich, died shortly after her arrival in St. Petersburg. 
A superstitious person would have rushed back home and 
tried to marry one of the fifty available heel-clicking Ger- 
man reigning Princes. But there was her father, the King 
of Denmark, who expected his daughters to procure for 
his country what it had always lacked: a friendly Fleet 
and a friendly Army. The Danish Minister in St. Peters- 
burg thought that not all was lost as yet. He rather fan- 
cied the new Cesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich. True 
enough, the disappointed Princess hardly reached the elbow 
of her would-be bridegroom but that was completely in 
accordance with the best traditions of the postcard eugen- 



199 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

ics; towering men and petite women. The reason for Rus- 
sia’s determination to have a Danish Princess on the throne 
of the Romanoffs remained unknown. Possibly our Min- 
ister of Foreign Affairs was anxious to insult the King of 
Prussia. As matchmakers, Russian diplomats had always 
been brave warriors. 

And so the marriage took place and my future mother- 
in-law missed her chance of escape. "It was written in the 
Books,” she said, but then she never complained. When I 
once suggested, at a time when our funds were scarce and 
prospects particularly gloomy, that fate had dealt un- 
kindly with her, she thought I was crazy. She would not 
have swapped lives with her sister Alexandra for all the 
Rajahs of India and all the diamonds of South Africa. 

She felt it was foreordained” that they should live sep- 
arated by a dynamite-charged continent for fifty-four 
years and by the scruples of Democracy for the remaining 
eight. From 1863 to 1917 it was the sad duty of Marie to 
remember that not much love existed between the Bear 
and the Lion, not even in the hysterical three years of their 
war alliance. From 1917 to 1925 it had been constantly 
brought to the attention of Her Britannic Majesty that 
England had nothing to gain by extending too lavish a 
hospitality to an elderly "ci-devant” who used to be the 
Empress of Russia. What Heine said of another race can 
be applied to the British: "Fur das Gewesene gibt er 
nichts.” 



200 



THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 



It was fortunate for Alexandra that the opinions of 
Downing Street counting for naught in the Great Beyond 
she could afford the luxury of a posthumous gesture: 
when her will was opened and read, it was discovered that 
she had left most of her jewelry and a bit of money to her 
seventy-seven-year-old sister. She thought that her beloved 
son George, and daughter-in-law Mary, well provided for 
and living in surroundings of reasonable comfort, would 
understand her anxiety to help a despondent exile. They 
did. 

On Christmas Eve of 1925 there sat a tiny, prim lady 
in the writing room of a big house in Hvidore in Denmark. 
She held in her hands the list of people to whom she used 
to send a Christmas telegram and she could not get it into 
her head that she must scratch out the name that headed 
the list. 

"Even in nineteen-seventeen,” she said, "when we were 
imprisoned by the Bolsheviks, I managed to send my tele- 
gram to England. I never failed to do it for sixty-two 
years.” 



2 

The art of white lies may attract ambitious amateurs — 
witness the pathetic efforts of America’s Chief Executives 
— but it takes a craftsman to master its intricacies. Even 
in the ever-smiling official Europe of yesterday the two 
royal sisters of Denmark remained unsurpassed. When they 



201 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



went for their morning drive, Alexandra in Hyde Park, 
Marie along the Nevsky — it seemed that Marx had never 
written Capital and that the world still consisted entirely 
of Their Majesties’ adoring subjects. Solemnity came to 
them by inheritance, but radiance through their own tire- 
less efforts. Infinitely patient, they charmed when they 
wanted to rant, and the age-old system of spreading good 
cheer achieved the grandeur of a Brahman cult in their 
case. 

“Splendid” and “fine” as used by them in their corre- 
spondence were code-words denoting a proud refusal to 
confess even to one’s own sister that things were going 
from bad to worse. 

“The morale of the Russian nation is splendid,” wrote 
Marie in the tragic days of the Russo-Japanese War. 

"Everything is fine,” wrote Alexandra when the pro- 
tracted visits of King Edward in the South of France be- 
came known in St. Petersburg. 

They met each spring in Copenhagen. Their reunion 
would last three weeks. They would embrace, talk of 
pleasant nothings, sigh over the passing of time, and then 
they would embrace again and say: “Until next spring.” 

Never a word about the growing unrest in Russia, never 
an inkling of the family complications in Buckingham 
Palace. 

"How is everything in Russia?” 

“Oh, splendid.” 



202 



THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 



"And Nicky? I hear that his popularity is increasing 
every day.” 

"It is, indeed. And how is Bertie?” 

"Fine. I am supremely happy.” 

"I am so glad. And the children?” 

"Well, you know, George is to be married soon.” 

"Dear boy. I still think of him as a baby.” 

And so on ad infinitum. 

Both realized, of course, that Nicky would never make 
a good Emperor and that the title of "ideal husband” could 
not be bestowed upon Bertie even by the Court Syco- 
phants, but it was silently agreed between the two sisters 
that they should cherish each other’s illusions. Content- 
ment, as they understood it, consisted of illusions, while 
illusions depended on white lies. 

Living aboard their yachts stationed in the waters of 
neutral Denmark, sufficiently far from the cockpit of Eu- 
ropean strife, they would spend their happy three weeks 
in an atmosphere of mutual adoration and mutual encour- 
agement. King Edward himself bowed to the rule that no 
"politics,” nothing pertaining to the Russo-British dif- 
ferences and liable to upset the relations between the two 
radiant ladies, be mentioned for three weeks. It must have 
pained him to sit for hours at the dinner table and not 
conduct an impromptu international conference but one 
does not discuss Secret Treaties at a children’s party, least 
of all in the presence of gray-haired children. 



203 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

* »fr 't< ‘t 1 ‘t* » * • 

All kinds of children as well as all ages were represented 
at those luncheons and dinners. Nothing short of death 
could keep their participants from attending the spring 
reunion in Copenhagen. Even from this distance I can see 
the following faces: the Prince and the Princess of Wales 
(later King Edward and Queen Alexandra) . Emperor 
Alexander III and Empress Marie, Cesarevich Nicholas 
Alexandrovich (later Czar Nicholas II) , Empress Alex- 
andra Feodorovna, Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, 
George, Duke of York (now King George V), Louise the 
Princess Royal (later the Duchess of Fife) , Victoria the 
Princess Royal, Maud the Princess Royal (later Queen 
Maud of Norway) , Grand Duke George, Grand Duke 
Michael, Grand Duchess Xenia (later my wife) , Grand 
Duchess Olga, the very youthful Prince "David” (the 
present Prince of Wales) and his sister Mary (the present 
Princess Royal) and his brother George (the present Duke 
of York) , myself and my brothers, my sister the Grand 
Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and her two daughters 
(the present Queen Alexandrine of Denmark and the pres- 
ent Crown Princess of Germany), Prince Christian and 
Prince Charles of Denmark (the present Kings of Den- 
mark and Norway) , etc., etc. 

We all came to worship at the shrine of the two royal 
matriarchs who sat at opposite ends of a long table, highly- 
coiffed, erect, solemn, supervising the distribution of "sur- 
prises” among the children and smiling at the grown-ups 



204 



THE TALE OF T¥0 SISTERS 

* 1 * 4 * 4 * * $ »+$*$* $ * * $ * 4 * *$* *$» ♦$** $ *'*$* *$**$* *$* * 1 * ♦$*♦$**$♦♦$♦ *$» *$* «$« »$* «$* <t* *$* *i* »$* »$» *$« «$* «$* * $ » «$* « $ * *$* *^* ► $ * *$* *^* 

with a benevolent air which always said: "You see how 
easy it is to forget the existence of diplomatic chancel- 
leries when you deal with your kin. Blood is thicker than 
Secret Treaties.” Whatever they uttered, in so many words 
or with smiles, never sounded platitudinous. Both possessed 
that rare sincerity of purpose which enabled them to quote 
hackneyed proverbs in a way thoroughly unoffensive even 
to a cynical pair of ears. When, putting her hand on the 
sleeve of her massive brother-in-law Emperor Alexander 
III, Alexandra would suggest that unselfishness should gov- 
ern the relations between the Great Powers, he nodded and 
said, "You are right” almost enthusiastically. He would 
have knocked down anyone else for a piece of similar ad- 
vice. 

It took the World War to scratch the spring reunion in 
Copenhagen off the calendar of European royalty. When 
I boarded the yacht of Queen Alexandra for the last time 
in my life, in the spring of 1924, after ten years of ab- 
sence, I wished I had not come. It was one thing to know 
that the majority of those who had sat at the long table 
were dead; it was another thing to see the emptiness of 
the dining room and listen to the stillness of the yacht. 

"Just like old times,” said my mother-in-law and smiled 
heroically. Nothing but the presence of the two radiant 
ladies suggested the old days. King George, Queen Mary 
and their children were detained in London. The Crown 
Princess of Germany was still considered our "enemy” and 

205 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



naturally could not attend. The children of my sister-in- 
law Grand Duchess Olga sat in the places formerly oc- 
cupied by their late cousins, daughters of their late uncle 
Nicky. "Let’s go and play deck-tennis,” I said to them 
and rushed out. They followed me, interested but some- 
what skeptical. 

"Can you play tennis, Uncle Sandro?” 

"Oh, yes,” I said, "we always played tennis, right here 
on this very deck.” 

"Did the Czar like to play it too?” 

"Very much so. He and your late British uncle, the 
Duke of Clarence, were our champions.” 

"Can you swim?” 

"Rather. You see that British destroyer?” I pointed 
toward the spot, about half a mile away, formerly re- 
served for the Russian Imperial Yacht. "We used to swim 
from here to there, drink a glass of milk and then swim 
back.” 

"Do they sell milk on the destroyer?” 

"No,” I said, "it was another boat there. A Russian 
boat.” 

The children whispered among themselves and looked 
at me questioningly. 

"What is it?” I asked. 

"We were wondering, Uncle Sandro,” said the elder 
boy, "whether it was difficult for you and Uncle Nicky 
to receive permission to come here.” 

206 



THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 



"Permission? What do you mean?” 

"Didn’t you tell mother yesterday that you spent several 
days in the Danish Consulate in Paris trying to get a visa?” 

"That’s true,” I admitted. "But, you see, the Danish 
consul in St. Petersburg knew us quite well.” 

It would have taken me too long a time to explain to 
my youthful nephews that the Russian Czar and his rela- 
tives were not in the habit of traveling armed with pass- 
ports. Born after the revolution in Copenhagen, where 
their mother lived in surroundings of utmost modesty, 
they were convinced that each and every Russian was al- 
ways a persona non grata in Denmark. 

3 

It is difficult to realize that both sisters were only eighty 
when they died. They outlived so many epochs, empires 
and policies that it seems they must have been well over 
two hundred. 

When they first left their native Denmark, Disraeli was 
a struggling upstart and the best European strategists were 
predicting the victory of General Robert E. Lee. 

On the day of Marie’s death Winston Churchill was 
publishing the fourth volume of his memoirs and the 
American bankers were struggling with the problem of 
European reparations. 

Until the very end they talked of King George as if he 

2 07 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

*$*• *$* *$* *$♦ * $ * *♦* +y+ * $ * * ♦ * * $ * * $ * > ^ ~^ 4 *$* *$* *$* * $ * * $ * > $ * > % »< $ **$»<$» * $ * > $ * * ♦ * * $ * * $ * *$* * | * * $ * * $ * * $ * * $ * * $ * * $ * * $ * * | * * $ * ^ *f* * % * *t* 

were still a boy ("Always forgets to put on his warm 
overcoat”) and the mention of Bismarck’s name invariably 
brought a frown to their beautiful faces ("You know 
those Prussian Junkers, always bluffing”). Not that they 
had to be reminded of the pivotal events of European his- 
tory and of the exact age of their children and contempo- 
raries, but having spent their lives in the midst of an end- 
less pageant they considered it superfluous to distinguish 
between yesterday and tomorrow. Alexandra’s elder son, 
the Duke of Clarence, died in 1892. Marie’s second son, 
Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, succumbed to tu- 
berculosis in 1899. King Edward passed away in 1909. The 
Czar and his family were assassinated in 1918. The dates 
were different but dates never mattered, only the fact of 
the four tragedies, only the realization of their loss. 

"It is extremely fortunate,” said Alexandra, "that my 
sister refuses to believe that Nicky is dead.” 

What she really meant was that she wished she could 
doubt the death of her husband and her favorite son. 

"How harmonious and beautiful was your life,” I said 
to her once. "You were given the satisfaction of seeing 
Great Britain become the most powerful nation in the 
world. You witnessed the supreme triumphs of your hus- 
band and your second son. You are the most beloved 
woman in the whole of the British Empire and your grand- 
son is the idol of the entire world.” 

"But I likewise buried the two human beings I loved 

208 




THE LATE DOWAGER-QUEEN ALEXANDRA OF ENGLAND 

"When she first left her native Denmark, Disraeli was a struggling upstart and the best 
European strategists were predicting the victory of General Robert E. Lee” 



International News Photo 





International News Photo 



THE LATE DOWAGER-EMPRESS MARIE OF RUSSIA 

"She would not have swapped lives with her sister Alexandra of England for all the rajahs 
of India and all the diamonds of South Africa” 




THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 

•*$*- ♦J* ^♦'*' ^**J*^$* *$*■ '*$*■ ■*$*■ •*$*■ *$♦ *J* •*^*" > v* *$*■ *$* *$* *$*■ 

best,” she answered quietly, “and I was unfortunate 
enough to live to see the destruction of all that my sister 
cherished.” 

We were right, both of us. Evidently someone else was 
wrong. The last eight years of Alexandra and eleven years 
of Marie were dedicated to the ungrateful task of discov- 
ering the identity of that someone else. Confirmed Chris- 
tians, they never doubted the ultimate wisdom of their 
Maker’s acts, and their willingness to blame themselves 
and their shortcomings for the great tragedies of their 
lives had prevented them from compromising with their 
consciences. “Humans are punished for their own sins.” 
That was simple enough. The difficulty began when they 
tried to determine whether or not the upright A must 
suffer because a punishment has to be meted out to the sin- 
ful B. This sounds frightfully Russian but then the Rus- 
sian attitude toward the Almighty is characteristic of 
practically all elderly people, be they imperturbable Danes 
or skeptical French. 

Did it increase the happiness of the world to have the 
Russian Empire destroyed ? Did it redeem a single soul that 
she who had been Princess Dagmar of peaceful Denmark 
of sixty years ago was brought to Russia and forced to live 
through the assassination of her father-in-law, her two sons 
and her five grandchildren? 

“God giveth and God taketh away” — both sisters liked 
to believe that this formula provided an answer to every 



209 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

one of their doubts. Alexandra said it often. And so did 
Marie. They always did their thinking in chorus, even 
when one would be in London, in the cold luxury of Marl- 
borough House, while the other would grieve in the soli- 
tude of her Danish retirement. 

“You should have stayed in England,” I said to my 
mother-in-law shortly after she moved to Denmark in 
1924. "This separation from your sister is bad for you. 
It makes you gloomy.” 

She shook her head. 

"You don’t understand, Sandro. I am much closer to 
my sister when there is a distance between us. When I 
lived in London, I felt estranged from her.” 

Shyness and pride kept her from admitting that she re- 
fused to share her sister with the latter’s family and Eng- 
land. Here in Hvidore, with a sea between them, she pos- 
sessed the whole of Alexandra’s image. There in London, 
in Marlborough House, she had to spend many an evening 
alone in her apartment while Alexandra was attending a 
State dinner or a reception in the palace. Here nothing 
had changed : she was still treated as Empress by the mem- 
bers of her household. There she had to bear in mind that 
from the point of view of Downing Street she was only 
a poor relation and a compromising guest. 



210 



THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 



4 

Queen Alexandra died on November 20, 1925. In an- 
swer to my letter of condolence King George wrote: 

Dear Sandro, 

I send you my best thanks for your kind letter and for all 
your sympathy in the death of my poor mother. She leaves a 
blank which can never be filled and the last link with my happy 
childhood has gone. But she, thank God, is at peace and is spared 
any further worries or sufferings and her death was a beautiful 
one, she went peacefully to sleep. I was so pleased to be able to 
lend dear Xenia that little cottage at Fragmare where she lives 
with her grandchildren and to help her in any way I could. 

With kind messages from my Wife 
Believe me 

Your affectionate cousin 

George R.I. 

Sympathetic as I was with King George, I was naturally 
more concerned about my mother-in-law. I knew it was 
her turn now and that nothing her daughters or I could 
do would make up for the absence of her sister. To King 
George his mother symbolized "the last link” with his 
happy childhood. For my mother-in-law her sister was the 
one and only link with life. She loved her daughters and 
she was extremely fond of her grandchildren but she al- 
ways said they could do without her. Since 1918 her world 



21 1 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

consisted of Alexandra. It was empty and deserted now. 
She was impatient to go. 

She lived for three years more but aside from following 
her usual routine she evidenced no interest in what was 
happening around her. She never acknowledged letters 
coming from Paris and telling her of the clash between 
the supporters of Cyril and the champions of the old 
Grand Duke Nicholas. There was only one Emperor of 
Russia so far as she was concerned — her son Nicky. She 
was satisfied that he was still alive. At least she said so. 
All the others were ridiculous or obnoxious or both. She 
felt it beneath her dignity to take sides, to issue mani- 
festoes, to participate in sham battles. Only once did she 
register protest and then her voice broke. It happened 
when she learned of the claims of that strange Polish girl 
in New York who insisted that she was Grand Duchess 
Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the Czar. "What do 
they think?” she exclaimed. "That I would sit here in 
Hvidore and not rush to my granddaughter’s side?” I tried 
to explain to her that there was no way of fighting Amer- 
ican passion for freaks and impostors, but she was mor- 
tally offended. 

In the early fall of 1928 she became ill and on October 
12 of that year I received a telegram from my wife ask- 
ing me to start for Denmark at once. She was dead by the 
time I arrived. The news of her death stirred the imagina- 
tion of the Danish people and she was to be given a State 



212 



THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 






funeral. She herself would have, no doubt, preferred to be 
buried next to her sister but that was impossible. Alex- 
andra belonged to England. Marie belonged to the Empire 
that was no more. So she was to stay in the country of her 
birth, among people whom she considered strangers. 

For the last time in her career and for the first time 
since the revolution, she was carried at the head of that 
pageant which follows all sovereigns so long as they retain 
the power to distribute decorations and grant promotions. 
In her death the Dowager-Empress of Russia suddenly re- 
captured what she had lost on the day of her son’s abdica- 
tion: the center of the stage. Even though her immediate 
relatives were penniless exiles, some two score of reigning 
royalty marched behind her coffin and there were enough 
Ambassadors and Envoys-Extraordinary jammed in the 
Cathedral of Copenhagen to start another World War. 
Most of them would have refused to visa her passport had 
she been alive and anxious to travel. They came because 
they wanted to be photographed by American camera men 
and because they recognized that this funeral would pro- 
vide them with material for their memoirs. “She died as 
she lived — a Tragic Empress,” said one of them, a pompous 
fool whom I had known for ages. Hearing his voice, the 
voice of an elderly eunuch, I was seized by an overpower- 
ing desire to grab a heavy chandelier and hit him on the 
head. 

The funeral over, I spent a few hours shaking hands and 



213 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

> fr > j « > fr > fr > fr 

chatting with my European reigning cousins some of 
whom I had not seen since 1914. It was a pity, they said, 
that the "inordinate pride” of the deceased kept them 
from coming to her aid in her last ten years. "Quite so,” 
I agreed. It is bad form to call a King a liar at a funeral. 

Back in Hvidore I found the two stalwart Cossacks. 
They sat on the steps of the big house, staring into space, 
inconsolable, haggard. What were they to do now? All 
their lives, both before and after the revolution, they de- 
pended on the Empress. They were the only two of her 
formerly large bodyguard who remained faithful to her 
through the miseries of 1917-1918. 

"Don’t worry,” I said. "I know that Her Majesty made 
a provision for you in her will.” 

"It’s not that,” said the younger of the two, a bearded 
giant of six-feet-four. 

"What is it then?” 

"Sort of lonesome without Her Majesty,” he said shyly. 

5 

Chatter. . . . Chatter. . . . Chatter. . . . 

It was as if every one of my cousins feared lest he should 
be outdone in this tournament of commonplaces. 

"A truly great woman.” 

"A wonderful mother.” 

"A noble heart.” 



214 



THE TALE OF TWO SISTERS 

"The conscience of European royalty.” 

"Charm personified.” 

"The tragic image of a tragic era.” 

When they finally donned their silk hats and left, not 
to be seen by us again unless there was another funeral, I 
took my wife and my sister-in-law to the familiar room 
where thirty-five years before we used to play the game 
of "wolf” with Emperor Alexander III. We had nothing 
to say to each other. We all knew it was the end of the 
Russia we loved and that very soon it would be our turn 
to leave. Life was still beautiful and there was the sea just 
below the windows, but from now on we had to travel 
separately. There was no one among the living now who 
could say: "Do not mind Sandro, just give him time. He 
always comes back.” With my usual selfishness I was think- 
ing of myself and I brooded because I had lost the only 
woman toward whom I felt what sons are supposed to feel 
toward their mothers. My own died when I was twenty- 
five and my attachment to her had never overreached the 
limits of conventional devotion. 

The will was read the next morning. As we all expected, 
aside from a provision for her servants, my mother-in-law 
left everything she had, her own jewelry and that which 
she had inherited from Queen Alexandra, to her two 
daughters. She appointed King George to act as her sole 
executor, which was good news for the estate but tragic 
news for the sharks and jewelers of Paris who naturally 



2IJ 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



hoped to see their favorite victim in charge of that valu- 
able property. Little as she knew about money matters, the 
old Empress understood that there was no man in the 
entire world less capable of fighting with the polished 
gangsters of the Rue de la Paix than her gray-haired son- 
in-law Alexander. 



216 



CHAPTER ELEVEN 

"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 

I 

Friends whose opinion I respect warned me against writ- 
ing this chapter. "You will be ridiculed,” they said. "You 
must realize that nobody is interested in your inner experi- 
ences. Write about Palaces and Royalty and your various 
adventures, but for Heaven’s sake not a word about spirit- 
ualism. It’s just as boresome as technocracy and not nearly 
so awe-inspiring. Better tell another story dealing with the 
fate of the Romanoff jewelry. Pretend you were lunching 
at the Colony in New York or, better still, at the Ever- 
glades Club in Palm Beach, and suddenly saw a woman at 
an adjoining table wearing the pearls of your wife. 
Wouldn’t it be thrilling?” 

I suppose it would. The trouble is that I have never seen 
such a woman and that I wouldn’t recognize my wife’s 
pearls even if I were to look at them from now until the 
End of the Depression. Neither do I feel like shedding 
tears over the Palaces-That-Were. Nothing would please 
me more than to spend the rest of my life in a country 
where every house is brand-new and no inhabitant pos- 



217 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



sesses ancestors. And as for the ridicule, I am not afraid of 
it; no Christian is of that Devil of the atheists. One is al- 
ways somebody’s ridiculous ass. I was — at every important 
moment of my own and my country’s history: In 1902 
when I predicted war with Japan and was insisting on 
building the second track of the Trans-Siberian. In 1905 
when I thought the Romanoffs must either clear out or 
challenge the Revolution to a decisive fight. In 1916 when 
I advised the Czar to throw the British Ambassador out of 
Russia and replace the slackers of the St. Petersburg gar- 
rison with the picked troops of the Imperial Guard and 
the "Wild” Caucasian Cavalry Division. In 1919 when I 
bet the members of the American Delegation in Paris that 
within the next twenty years nothing would be left of the 
Treaty of Versailles and that the Soviets were to endure in 
Russia. In 1923 when I wrote in a French newspaper that 
the last had not been heard of the Hohenzollerns. 

I must admit that it is distinctly gratifying to be con- 
sidered ridiculous by the generation which produced the 
authors of the Eternal Peace Treaty in Washington and 
the staunch champions of the rights of China in Geneva. 



2 

To begin at the beginning, I would have to go back to 
the year of my imprisonment by the Bolsheviks in the 
Crimea. Naturally enough, I had every reason to doubt 

218 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



that I would ever be at large again. It seemed just a ques- 
tion of a few weeks more or less. I hated to die but there 
was nothing I could do to prevent my wardens from 
shooting me at their pleasure. My family and the two elder 
Grand Dukes, Nicholas and Peter, thought we ought to 
pull the few remaining strings, such as writing letters to a 
former friend who happened to have influence with the 
Soviets or appealing to the heads of the Scandinavian Gov- 
ernments, but that was plain rot. \ffliat little history I 
knew was sufficient to make me understand that the ex- 
termination of each and every member of the Imperial 
Family simply had to head the list of the Do’s of the Rev- 
olution. We may have been quite harmless but so was Marie 
Antoinette. Years before the revolution I read several arti- 
cles by Trotzky printed in a Kieff newspaper and I re- 
membered now that he displayed in them a profound 
knowledge of the history of the French Revolution. It 
seemed unlikely that he would repeat the mistake of the 
Jacobins and let the Russian counterparts of d’Artois and 
d’Orleans escape. 

This settled, I had to look for something with which to 
fill my remaining hours. My mother-in-law loathed bridge 
and I was afraid to play with the two elder Grand Dukes. 
Friendly as were our relations on the surface, it would 
have taken much less than a four bid on a slam hand to 
make me tell Grand Duke Nicholas what I thought of 
him as Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armies and 

219 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

« $ »■» $ « 4**$* * $ * » $ «»$»♦$»« $ * * $ * > $ * «f» * $ » » $ « Ijfr » j jl >$» < $ »* $ »«■ } [« » 4 « » $ *» $ * * $ * * 1 * 4* * $ * ^ * $ * * $ * 4* 

the Czar’s political adviser. He in turn would, no doubt, 
have let me hear his valuation of my talents, which was 
very low indeed. 

And so we stayed away from the bridge table. The elder 
Grand Dukes played an endless game of sixty-six with 
their wives. My mother-in-law read the Bible. My wife 
spent her days with the children. I was left alone in my 
study. Facing me were long shelves of books. Navy books 
and numismatic books. Neither of these subjects could 
have been of the least interest to me at that time. My 
wardens and would-be executioners were sailors, which 
showed how little I learned about the navy from my books, 
and I wished I could forget my collection of coins because 
otherwise I would have been thinking of Turkey, Asia 
Minor, Palestine and all the other countries where I had 
spent some of the happiest hours of my life. I just sat and 
brooded. "Ifs,” all sorts of "ifs” were hammering on my 
brain. What would have happened to me if, instead of 
returning to Russia in 1 893 , 1 had stayed in New York and 
played Jerome Bonaparte? Would it have made any dif- 
ference if I had managed to overcome my contempt for 
Rasputin and tried to fight his influence in a more subtle 
manner? Would I have been able to keep Nicky from ab- 
dicating had I rushed to his side the very first day of the 
mutiny in St. Petersburg? 

From the place where I usually sat, in front of an open 
window, I could see the two sailors posted at the front en- 



220 



“ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



trance to the house and the sight of the hand grenades 
attached to their belts helped me to sift my "ifs.” One by 
one, I dismissed all "ifs” dealing with Russia in general, 
with Nicky and his children, with my brothers and my 
family. There was no point in pretending to myself that 
anything else mattered to me except the fact that I myself 
was about to disappear from this world. I looked in the 
mirror. I touched my face. I straightened up. It seemed 
impossible that the human being I called myself could 
really cease to exist. I was still comparatively young. I still 
liked good wines. I still admired women. Why should I 
die and become nothing? 

I struck a match, held it close to the palm of my left 
hand for a moment, then blew it out. The match died but 
the energy it embodied did not go to waste: I felt my left 
hand warm now. This was reassuring although there was 
nothing new in the experiment itself, nothing that could 
add even an iota to the physical law of the transformation 
of energy. I suddenly thought of my old teacher of physics 
and a feeling of bitterness came over me. I resented the 
arrogance of science. What was it that made those con- 
ceited asses claim that the only energy capable of going to 
waste was the energy contained in a human being? The 
next moment I realized that I myself was talking like an 
ass, for no soil is as fertile as the soil of a cemetery. I re- 
called the magnificent last page of Zola’s La Terre: the 
description of that stupendously tall wheat which was 



22 I 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



growing in a field formerly occupied by the village ceme- 
tery. Warmth from a match. Tall wheat from Grand 
Duke Alexander. Logic was there, all the way through, 
but it was the logic of scientists. The obvious thing to do 
was to stop thinking in terms of science. 

I envied my mother-in-law. Her implicit faith in the 
truthfulness of every word written in the Good Book gave 
her something stronger than mere courage. She was ready 
to face her Maker; she was certain of her own righteous- 
ness; didn’t she always say, "God’s wishes shall be ful- 
filled”? Her technique was fascinating in its simplicity. I 
wished I could adopt it but there was no way of doing it 
unless I was willing to accept all that went with it. Bishops. 
Cathedrals. Miraculous ikons. Official Christianity with its 
hypocritical doctrine of the sinfulness of flesh. I knew I 
might be shot within the next five minutes but so long as 
I could still see the white sail of a fisherman’s boat on the 
horizon and smell the odor of the lilacs underneath the 
window I refused to agree that the earth was but a mam- 
moth valley of tears. The earth I knew was ever joyful, 
perhaps because I never went inside a church to commune 
with God but stayed in my Crimean vineyards, grateful 
for the deep-red richness of the grapes, thrilled with the 
realization that I possessed it, all of it, as far as my eyes 
could reach, the vineyards, the gardens, the fields, the 
mountains. 

My learned elder brother called me "pantheist” but this 



ZZZ 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



word suggested the stuffiness of libraries, cringy old men 
bent over their treatises. Whichever "ist” I was, I wor- 
shiped Life in all its forms and expressions. The biting 
Moscow winters. The stillness of the tropical night on 
Ceylon. The misty blue fogs over the Golden Gate. The 
solemn vastness of Sydney harbor. The shrieking voice of 
Constantinople. And that September afternoon in New 
York when, driving through Central Park, I saw the win- 
dows of the Savoy Hotel set afire by the sunset. 

It was strange that a man about to die should become 
enthused over the transitory beauty of a far-away past but 
it was thanks to those moments of ecstasy experienced by 
me years ago that sitting in my chair, in front of the open 
window, and watching my two heavily armed wardens, I 
suddenly discerned the radiant face and the blessing smile 
of my God. Not the threatening Jehovah of Job. Not the 
gloomy Lord of that stuttering vandal Paul. But the Sym- 
bol and Sum of a joyful universe, of life’s splendors. 

"There is no death,” I said to myself, "there is no final 
parting. The ties between me and that which I loved with 
the jealous intensity of a possessor shall never be severed. 
I shall always remain I, kept in this world by that same 
energy which made me plant my gardens and feel a sen- 
suous thrill when I buried my face in a branch of lilacs. It 
is not the things I really loved that I shall be separated 
from, only from those which were indifferent or loath- 
some.” 



22 3 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

>t< > fr >*< A A A >*, ,*1 r*1 fr t»1 ffr 

My thoughts were naive, perhaps tainted with hysteria 
natural under the circumstances. But I was on the right 
track. Had my imprisonment lasted a few months more, 

I would have reached the warp and woof of the Law of 
Love. As it was I was pulling at its fringes. 

3 

Five years passed. Once more I was leading the life I was 
taught to consider proper and unavoidable. 

Three meals a day. White wine at luncheon. A pint of 
champagne at dinner. Paris in the fall. Riviera in the 
spring. Seaside in the summer. Newspapers. Small chatter. 
Money troubles. Ever increasing “ifs.” Sighs. New ac- 
quaintances suspiciously resembling the old ones by the 
absence of mutual interests. “That pathetic Grand Duke” 
written in their faces. "What bores, what frightful bores” 
— the only thought in my mind. 

I did not entirely forget my peculiar Crimean experi- 
ence but I feared to rehearse it. The tradition of our fam- 
ily had it that my grand-uncle Emperor Alexander I had 
ruined his life through his interest in spiritualism. The 
people who originally put that legend into circulation 
must have been the same sacred cows of liberalism who 
said that modern machinery brought happiness and that 
all men were equal under Democracy, but in the first years 
of my exile I was rather subdued by the sacred cows of lib- 



224 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



eralism. I even sat once through a long lecture of a cele- 
brated Italian historian who proved to everybody’s satis- 
faction that Mussolini was the arch-enemy of humanity 
because he would not let the peasants sell their votes to the 
highest bidder. 

"You must keep your feet on terra firma,” I advised 
myself. “No more nonsense. This is the age of enlightened 
and triumphant science.” 

Then I went to spend a Saturday in Deauville. Deauville 
was terra firma. Olive-skinned young men in double- 
breasted dinner jackets kept a death-watch over the dia- 
mond necklaces of English dowagers. High-voiced, crim- 
son-lipped New York chorus girls were explaining to their 
undersized native escorts that in America everyone must 
work. The Prince of Wales was playing in the privee sur- 
rounded by a bevy of husky Pennsylvania millionaires who 
could not understand why their Royal friend should refuse 
their offer to stake him to the bank. An elderly Maharanee 
sat across the table from the Prince, a large mother-of- 
pearl turtle covering her tall stacks of chips. Each time she 
was given her cards, she rubbed the head of the turtle, 
closed her faded black eyes, mumbled a short prayer and 
only then opened the cards. She was winning. In the ball- 
room the music was playing, possibly in honor of the Ma- 
haranee, the American fox-trot version of Rimsky-Korsa- 
koff’s "Song of India.” About us the air reeked of per- 
fumed humans and stale champagne. Over and above the 



225 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

whining saxophones I could hear the shrill giggling of two 
famous American vaudeville dancers, thick-lipped, mid- 
dle-aged women of striking ugliness. 

I went to the bar. It was less suffocating there and the 
white coats of the stewards looked refreshingly clean. I 
was about to order a long strong drink when an irresistible 
urge for solitude seized me. I ran out of the Casino and 
made for the beach. A cold drizzling rain was falling stead- 
ily but there was no one around and the smell of the sea 
was pleasant. Salt and fish. No perfume, no powder, no 
hair tonic. It was quite dark under the tent of the deserted 
boardwalk cafe. Stumbling against the pyramids of over- 
turned tables I picked a chair, settled down, lighted a ciga- 
rette and listened to the fog horns. The captain of that 
Dover-bound steamer must have been quite a man. The 
cleverness with which he was zigzagging through the fog 
made me feel happy. I thought it would be a good idea not 
to return to the Casino at all. Then I heard a voice coming 
from behind. 

"Not so attractive in the Casino?” 

"Pretty scummy,” I agreed. 

The stranger spoke French with a slight foreign accent. 
It was difficult to guess his nationality. He might have 
been a South German or an Austrian. 

"Lost much?” he asked me after a silence. 

"No. I never play. And you?” 

"Neither do I,” he said with a quiet laugh. 

226 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



I went on smoking. I wished he would go. 

"Like this sort of life?” he asked after another silence. 
"Not quite.” 

"But still live it?” 

"What can I do?” 

"Lots.” 

"For instance?” 

"Stop fooling yourself, for one thing. Your days are get- 
ting shorter. Benefit by whatever sunshine there is left.” 
Must be a crank, I thought. 

"You seem to know me,” I said aloud. 

"I do.” 

"Do I know you?” 

"You did at one time.” 

I laughed. 

"You sound like the spirit of my misspent past.” 

"Or of your bitter future.” 

"Don’t rub it in, sir. It’s bad enough as it is.” 

"Whose fault is it?” 

"I concede the point.” 

"That’s the best you ever did. Trying to see all sides, too 
many sides, and conceding points.” 

"Right again. What would you? The fate of all dilet- 
tanti.” 

"Too tired to love and too blase to hate, that’s what you 
mean!” 

"My dear sir, do not criticize, I pray. Lead!” 



227 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"Stuff and nonsense! No one can lead a man who thrives 
on self-pity.” 

"Self-pity?” 

"Yes, self-pity. It thrills you to think of yourself in the 
third person, as a Great Martyr of the age, as a silent hero 
who lived through the suicide of an Empire. Can’t you see 
anything else in your sufferings except a vehicle for self- 
pity and self-glorification? Don’t you discern a warning, a 
lesson?” 

"What do you expect me to do? To preach humility 
and all other virtues that I myself have never exercised?” 
"It is for you to answer this question. You must decide 
for yourself and by yourself whether there was in your 
experiences something that is of value, of significance. 
Think back. Think of what was most precious to yourself. 
Money? You never cared for it. It never helped you. 
Power? You always avoided it. Family and friends? In 
your heart you never stopped feeling that they were stran- 
gers. Religion? You never embraced any. Were you to die 
now, what particular moment of your life would you be 
thinking about? This is the acid test of values; not what 
excites you when you are well and alive, but what makes 
you tremble with tenderness when you are dying. Would 
you be thinking of your palace in Russia? Of the straight 
arrow of the Champs-Elysees? Of the day you got mar- 
ried? Of the day you were made an admiral?” 

"God, no!” 



228 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



"What is it then?” 

Galloping through my life, through victories and de- 
feats and thrills and bitterness, I came to a morning fifty 
years back. 

"I have it!” I exclaimed. "The Caucasus. That slope of 
the mountain back of my father’s house. I am lying in the 
tall grass watching the flight of a lark. All is peace around 
me and in me. Peace and silence and contentment. When I 
look down I can see the lawns of our garden. There are 
figures moving there too. I cannot see their faces but I can 
see the white blossoms of cherry trees and the moving red 
carpet of roses. I love it, I am in love with the entire world. 
You hear me?” 

There was no answer. I jumped up and looked around. I 
could see nothing but darkness. I struck a match: I had 
been alone amidst the pyramids of overturned tables and 
chairs. 

4 

"It’s a case for alienists. Only unbalanced people see 
spirits and talk to them.” 

This remark of my scientific friends was to become a 
staple feature of the following few years of my life. This 
and — 

"Why don’t you write your memoirs and make some 
money in America instead of wasting your time on books 
that nobody wants to read?” 



229 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



And — 

"Well, are you still tipping tables?” 

It was a fortunate thing for me that I was an old hand 
at being ridiculed. The hazing administered to me by the 
liberal newspapers and politicians of Imperial Russia had 
thickened my skin and made it quite easy for me to 
weather the jokes of my delightful acquaintances in Paris 
and Biarritz. I never bothered to explain to them the dif- 
ference between spiritualism and the turning of tables. 
One does not quarrel with ignorance. To the American 
collectors of human oddities I used to say: "Nothing in it 
for you. It does not land on the front pages and could 
never make money. Just hopeless. Better concentrate on 
surrealism, nudists and the Five-Year Plan. Or go to Brus- 
sels and get yourself photographed with that explorer of 
the stratosphere. The rotogravures will eat it up. It will 
last you from the Horse Show until the May Presentations 
to the Court.” 

The writing of my books proved more difficult. I did 
not possess words, but words possessed me. When I started 
to write, I thought I would write in French, it being my 
best language of the four, but then I switched to English, 
feeling that it would enable me to gain in clearness what I 
would miss in eloquence. The manuscript of my first book 
( The Union of Souls) completed, I knew no publishers in 
England or America and it was much easier for me to 
arrange the publication of my book in France. I did not 



230 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



expect it to sell and in order not to cause disappointment 
and losses to anyone else, I simply took it to a printer and 
paid his bill out of my pocket. The people to whom I 
mailed the copies — mostly my relatives — said it was fright- 
fully dull and thoroughly ridiculous. Only three persons 
gave me encouragement: my secretary, a Russian lady 
whom I had known for years, and a Swiss lecture manager. 
The last must really have liked my book because he asked 
me to come to Switzerland and deliver several lectures. 
Had he been an American, I would have suspected it was 
my title that attracted him: a Russian Grand Duke dis- 
cussing spiritualism compares favorably with Snyder the 
Talking Ape in the box office. But Switzerland never paid 
much attention to resplendent titles. It always relied on 
the postcard prettiness of its lakes and catered to the less 
publicized clients, honeymooners and sentimental trades- 
men. 

I was to lecture in Zurich which necessitated still an- 
other translation of my book, this time into German, a 
language I had not spoken since 1914. I felt grateful for 
the severity of my tutors who had spared no punishment 
in impressing upon me the overwhelming importance of 
German grammar. When I heard myself addressing my 
audience in German, I very nearly said : 

"Stehen auf die Frage wessen 
doch es ist nicht zu vergessen 



23 I 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



dass die diese letzte drei 
auf der Dativ richtig sei,” 

which is, of course, one of the many rules of declension 
contained in German grammar and put into poetical form 
by my old tutors. 

While I talked — my lecture lasted fifty-five minutes — 
I tried not to look at the faces of the audience. For the first 
time in my life I was standing on a platform and address- 
ing people I had never met before. When all was over and 
I suggested that my listeners ask me questions, a message 
was brought to me by the attendant of the hall. It read: 
"I have come all the way from Berlin to hear you but you 
wouldn’t even look at me. P.S. You did get mixed up in 
your tenses in the concluding part of your speech. It 
should have been * imirde fur Ende Juli festgesetzt,’ not 
war . . . 

Only then I raised my eyes and recognized the smiling, 
ruddy face of my old friend, a well-known German 
archeologist, in the first row. I had seen him last in 19 n 
in Trebizond where he was in charge of an expedition 
financed by me. Midnight found us still endeavoring to 
tell each other all that had happened to us on the road from 
Trebizond to Zurich. He could not conceal his amazement. 
To him, as to all Germans, it seemed unbelievable that 
Royalty could wind up by lecturing in Switzerland, in a 
"common hall.” The fact that I was a Romanoff did not 



232 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



matter so much; it was the idea that my mother belonged 
to the "Great House of Baden” which made him sigh and 
shake his head. 

"Who could have thought! Who could have thought!” 
he repeated over and over again. 

"Don’t grieve so much,” I said, "better tell me what 
you think of the subject of my lecture.” 

Well, that was simple enough. The Russians had always 
been a race of madmen. He was convinced that no Hohen- 
zollern could or would lecture on such a crazy subject. 
History? Yes, by all means. Political philosophy? Perhaps, 
although he did not think it advisable for Royalty to lower 
themselves to the level of retired presidents and heart- 
broken ex-prime ministers. But spiritualism? He re- 
fused to take it seriously. As an older man and a former 
beneficiary of my "generosity,” he felt it his duty to warn 
me. 

"You must think of your future,” he said, and I ordered 
another bottle of Moselwein. 

5 

I was thinking of my future. Incessantly. Although not 
certain as yet of my ability to find adequate expression for 
what was so clear to myself, I went ahead with my work. 
Several books followed in rapid succession. Printed at my 
own expense, they mirrored my ideas as they were at that 



233 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



time, chaotic in their sincerity and sincere in their chaos. 
I did not have to please the publishers or entertain the pub- 
lic. I was writing them for myself and the very few people 
who cared to read them. Were they to remain just manu- 
scripts in the drawer of my desk, I would not have been 
able to judge them from a detached point of view. A man- 
uscript stands for the present; a printed book symbolizes 
the past. When I sit at my typewriter, it is always "I.” 

“I am writing it.” 

"I must not forget to look up that French word.” 

"I hope I am making it clear.” 

But when the book arrives from the printers and I 
turn its pages, it immediately becomes "He.” A stranger 
I knew at one time. Great many passages displease me. I 
make a wry face and say: "Poor job. It lacks clearness. It 
is hopelessly involved. It should never have been expressed 
in that way.” 

With each succeeding book I was becoming more en- 
grossed in my subject and less sure that I could do it jus- 
tice. What was exciting as a thought, convincing as a vis- 
ion, looked hopelessly dogmatic on the printed page. I re- 
read the books written by the prominent English and 
French spiritualists and saw that they too, although much 
better craftsmen, were struggling with an unsolvable 
problem. They too failed to find words that would ring 
true and recreate the fervor of an inner experience. The 
Law of Love when put on paper sounded like a doctrine of 



234 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



intolerable visionaries or a conglomerate of platitudes. 
With the exception of a few novelists who completely mis- 
understood the nature and the purposes of the practice of 
spiritualism, no writer who tackled this subject has suc- 
ceeded in bringing out that unique combination of ultra- 
realistic facts and religious ecstasy which characterizes a 
bona fide spiritualistic experiment. Sir Oliver Lodge is too 
conscious of the objections of his scientific colleagues, 
while the late Conan Doyle had spent himself in the 
marshes of his quasi-spiritualistic parlance. 

It saddens me that I hesitate to relate one particular ex- 
perience of mine which occurred in the summer of 192 j, 
in the Mena Hotel outside Cairo, while I was on my way 
to Abyssinia, but I know it would serve no purpose save 
to provide a laugh for American book reviewers. Never 
before and never since have I been given such a convincing 
proof of the full-blooded truthfulness of spiritualism. For 
fifteen minutes by the clock I talked to someone who had 
been very dear to me in my youth and who came because 
of my anguish. There was no medium present on that oc- 
casion, no paraphernalia customary for a seance, no "ex- 
perts” to interpret and interfere. Just a few friends mildly 
interested in my experiments. 

We were sitting in a room overlooking the desert and so 
strong was the light of a full moon that we could see the 
faces of the people in the court below. The figure of the 
spirit was plainly visible and the voice quite audible. No 



235 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



mistake could have been made as to her identity. She spoke 
Russian with that same odd, inimitable accent which was 
peculiarly her own in the days when she was still among 
us. 

"Oh, this light is so painfully strong” — those were her 
first words. Then she began to talk and talked steadily for 
several minutes, interrupted just once by a friend of mine 
who insisted on getting an "additional” proof. He asked her 
something he knew no one but myself and she could have 
answered. She felt sorry for him. He was, she said, a slave 
of that most intolerant of all religions — Skepticism. Then 
she went on, talking about Egypt and our surroundings. 

"But what is it that we call 'death’?” I asked. "What 
will happen to me after I am pronounced 'dead’?” 

"You shall cease to notice the passing of time,” she said. 
"There is no time where I am.” 

"But aside from that, will I still remain I?” 

"For ever and ever.” 

"Will I be able to meet those whom I have lost?” 

"If you really loved them, you will. But if you were 
attached to them by the ties of a forced conventional af- 
fection, you will not. They are where I am, all of them, 
but I can recognize only a few of them.” 

"Is that the reason why I never hear from the others but 
always succeed in communicating with you?” 

"It is.” 

Then she disappeared. As suddenly as she had come. We 

236 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



went on the balcony and stayed there for the rest of the 
night. The Cook’s guides were scurrying to and fro in the 
moonlit court below getting out of beds a large party of 
elderly Englishwomen who had come to watch the Sunrise 
in the Desert. 

6 

Once a year, returning home from my morning stroll in 
the Bois, I would find a group of hard-chewing young men 
waiting for me in my apartment. It usually happened in 
the early summer when the scarcity of European news 
made the American correspondents in Paris rediscover the 
existence of Grand Duke Alexander. Our conversation 
never varied. 

"Want to make a statement?” 

"About what?” 

"Oh, things in general. Situation in the Far East. Red 
Terror in Russia. Will there be another war in Europe? 
What do you think of the American girls? Two hundred 
words will do.” 

The whole thing never took more than ten minutes. It 
had been agreed between us years ago that I was to express 
alarm about the situation in the Far East, register my pro- 
test against the continuation of the Red Terror in Russia, 
predict the imminence of a war between Italy and Yugo- 
slavia and make a gallant remark or two about the Diana- 
like figure and Minerva-like brains of the modern Ameri- 

237 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



can girl. I loathed that Diana-and-Minerva metaphor but 
they said it went over big in the Middle West. The exact 
wording of my statement did not matter because, in the 
first place, it was up to the rewrite man to decide what I 
really thought of the American girl and, in the second 
place, no paper was going to use it anyway. The idea was 
to keep the home office from raising Cain. My statement 
typed, they would say "Thank you” and rush back to 
Harry’s in the Rue Daunou. I would empty the ash-trays 
and proceed with my work. Nothing could have been 
fairer than this altogether pleasant arrangement. It kept 
my name on the files of Western Union and it re- 
minded me to inspect my summer wardrobe. Even my 
valet came to know that the visit of the American corre- 
spondents meant that my flannel trousers should be sent to 
the cleaner. 

Thus it shocked me considerably to see an assortment 
of large feet on my writing table when I returned home 
one morning in the spring of 1927. 

"Don’t tell me the Soviets have elected me the Czar of 
the Third Internationale,” I said, entering the room. 

"We want a statement,” was the answer. 

I felt flattered. Two statements per year! The scales 
were lifting! 

"The situation in the Far East, complicated as it is by — ” 
I began but was not permitted to go farther. 

"Nothing doing! Can it. We want a real statement. No 

238 



"ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA” 



kidding this time. We were told that you talked to the 
spirit of the late Czar. Let’s have it.” 

I demurred. I liked to oblige them but one had to draw 
a line somewhere. 

"Sorry, boys,” I said. "Quote me on any subject you 
wish, including the United States of Europe and the Re- 
freshing Simplicity of American girls but cut out spirits.” 

"So, no statement?” 

"No statement.” 

They left disgruntled. In due time a clipping arrived 
from America advising me that 

TALKED TO THE CZAR’S SPIRIT 
SAYS FORMER GRAND DUKE, etc. 

I remained silent. I knew better than to try to deny any- 
thing printed in the American papers. 

Then things began to happen. A man in North Carolina 
wrote to say that he would be interested to have me as his 
winter guest because he always "liked spirits.” A Chicago 
physician mailed me his booklet entitled: Psychoanalysis as 
Cure for Insanity. A Women’s Club in Iowa was willing 
to pay me "two hundred in cash” and provide me with 
"hotel-and-Pullman accommodations” if I would cross the 
ocean and talk to the Czar in their presence. A Brooklyn 
gentleman warned me that no "tricks” of mine could alter 
"the determination of the rising masses of the world.” And 
a Los Angeles realtor sent a letter consisting of just one 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

line: "Communing with spirits? Then you would love 
Southern California.” 

The two boys responsible for this fireworks of idiocy 
said I ought to be grateful to them. "The first thing you 
know,” they explained, "the Lucky Strike people will be 
on your heels. Nothing succeeds like success in America. 
Sky’s the limit.” 



240 



CHAPTER TWELVE 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 

i 

Nothing is so useful to an exile as his hard-earned ability 
to recite the Cinderella story in reverse. It fed the Duke 
of Orleans during his stay in America. It carried King 
Louis XVIII through his lean years in London. It landed 
many a Russian refugee of the 1920’s behind the counter 
of a department store. The number of ways in which it 
can be exploited by an impoverished aristocrat is really 
astounding. According to my relatives, none is more de- 
grading than lecturing on spiritualism — a somewhat de- 
batable point of view but one which prompted me to 
accept the long-standing offer of a New York lecture 
bureau in the summer of 1928. When in doubt, I always 
make a decision distasteful to my relatives. 

"You are crazier than a March hare,” was their parting 
blessing, and the sound of that word "March” made me 
prick up my ears. It was in the month of March of the 
year of grace 1917 that, acting against the advice of every 
one of my brothers, cousins and nephews, I refused to sign 
the famous "waiver of all claims” stuck in the faces of the 



241 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Romanoffs by the Provisional Government. Not that I 
wanted the throne for myself or my children. God forbid. 
I simply thought that a man does not cease to be his 
father’s son just because a bunch of slackers threaten him 
with a firing squad. The fact that eleven years later, on the 
eve of my departure for America, I turned out to be the 
only surviving Grand Duke without High Ambitions or 
Inspiring Message for the 160,000,000 Russians proved to 
my relatives that I was lacking in both brains and patriot- 
ism. 

"Fifteen years after!” I caught myself repeating this 
phrase over and over again aboard the Leviathan. 

"You mean 'Twenty Years After,’ ” said my well-read 
secretary who knew his Dumas by heart. 

No, I meant fifteen, for just fifteen years had passed 
since I last visited the United States. When I left New 
York in the late summer of 1913, Wall Street was still 
borrowing money in London and "J. P. Morgan & Co.” 
was still only the name of a banking firm, not the Taj- 
Mahal of the Western world. I was not afraid of changes. 
The more the merrier. I was afraid of myself. I doubted 
my ability to fit into the picture of the new America. 
Judging by the hard-drinking young women I used to 
meet around Paris and Biarritz, since the war the Ameri- 
cans had taken v/hat they considered a step forward but 
what looked to me to be a step backward, right into the 
past of pre-war Europe. Midwestern accents in the Ritz 



242 



“POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



Bar, discussing Proust and Freud, made me think of Russia 
in the early ifjoo’s. It was saddening to realize that the 
robust viciousness of the America I had known and ad- 
mired had given place to the sickening self-consciousness 
of an hysterical idealism. I was ready to admit that perver- 
sion is a convenient conversational topic among strangers 
without mutual interests, but I was rather disappointed 
that the Americans should revive what had become com- 
monplace in Europe long before the days of motor-cars. 

Sitting now in the smoking room of the Leviathan and 
listening to the chatter around me, I felt transplanted 
thirty years back, into the Guards Barracks in St. Peters- 
burg. Same hodgepodge of badly digested ideas, same spar- 
kling of eyes at the mention of some dull people widely 
advertised because of their sexual peculiarities, same curt- 
sying before the Great Headliners, be they Hindoo 
mountebanks, Wall Street stock manipulators, highly suc- 
cessful French dressmakers or brilliant German mathe- 
maticians. So this was the American share of the Versailles 
spoils! It seemed bewildering that any nation should send 
two million men across the ocean, fight for something that 
did not concern it in the least, tear up the map of the 
world and lend billions of dollars to its competitors — all 
for the sole purpose of acquiring the worst traits of pre- 
war Europe, but the material at hand afforded no other 
conclusion. The material at hand was some eight hundred 
Americans aboard the Leviathan. Suspicious Easterners and 



243 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

snobbish Southerners, eloquent Westerners and shrieking 
Middle W esterners, stockbrokers and dry-goods buyers, 
dowagers and gold-diggers, writers and politicians, school- 
teachers and card sharks, a gathering unmistakably repre- 
sentative of the changing characteristics of a nation. 

Had I been going on a visit, I should have said, British- 
like: Oh, well, after all, this is none of my concern.” But 
I was a lecturer now, a man paid to please and entertain his 
audiences. I feared that in order to please and entertain the 
new brand of Americans I should have to pose as a Russo- 
German neurasthenic of the early 1900’s, as a guinea pig 
of garrulous psychologists and quasi-philosophers. 

You must realize,” said a beautiful young woman at 
my table, who blushed when her husband admitted that he 
liked Galsworthy, "that we Americans have come of age. 
We have developed within the last ten years our own in- 
telligentsia.” 

Intelligentsia! How well I knew the sinister record of 
that word! It had suffocated Russia and Germany. It had 
sapped the strength of England. It had turned Scandinavi- 
ans into boresome maniacs. It had suffered but one single 
defeat since the day it had crept into the speech of Europe. 
Only the cold lucidity of the French genius was able to 
shake off its poisonous effects. But that was France, the 
country which had always come victorious out of its bat- 
tles with words, which had managed to transform even the 
three-headed monster of Liberty-Equality-Fraternity into 

244 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



a mere decorative frontispiece for its banks, police stations 
and jails. The protective mechanism of France was not to 
be found anywhere else. America would have to live at 
least five hundred years more to develop that enlightened 
indifference which safeguards the French against the rav- 
ages of sinister words. I saw small hope for America. It 
was clear to me that in the course of her European adven- 
ture she had lost not only her money but likewise that 
vigorous simplicity of a lone elephant which had carried 
her through the jungles of the nineteenth century. She 
may have scored a victory at Chateau -Thierry but it was 
a victory over her own future: she ceased to be America. 
Then she went to Versailles, to witness the distribution of 
prizes to her allies and to receive for herself a small pack- 
age of old European clothes and discarded European ideas. 



2 

The only remaining bit of America-That-Was awaited 
me at Quarantine. It was cheerful to discover that immi- 
gration inspectors and ship reporters had lost none of their 
virility. 

"Give us a smile, Alexander.” 

"Say, what about that dame on Long Island who says 
she is an eighteen-carat Romanoff?” 

"Raise your hand and swear that you are not a believer 
in polygamy and that while in this country you will do 



245 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

*** * ♦ ■ ? • ‘ I ‘ ‘t 1 •! ■ ■ $ • - t - - t - * j- f ■;■ r fr -fr ,ft ,fr ,j, ,|, % 

nothing to undermine the existence of organized govern- 
ment.” 

"Ever been in jail? Possess sixty dollars on your person?” 

I felt fifteen years younger. True enough, it reflected 
in the character of my smile — the camera man insisted that 
a "heartbroken nobleman” should smile "sort of sad” — but 
otherwise I got along fine with my old friends of the New 
York press and the Labor Department. When I was finally 
dismissed by them, I was reluctant to go ashore and ex- 
change their invigorating company for the vast conglom- 
erate of anonymous faces known as the Borough of Man- 
hattan. 

I was not alone by then. I had for guide my son Dimitry 
who had preceded me by four years in his flight from Eu- 
rope. A mere child at the time of the revolution, he had 
experienced no difficulty in unlearning what his parents 
had taught him. His rapid-fire conversation on the way to 
my hotel disclosed his thorough New Yorkism. He felt 
proud of his City of Six Millions and rejoiced in his ability 
to make an independent living. A forty-dollar-a-week 
bank clerk, he talked as if he personally were responsible 
for the building of the newest skyscraper. He promised to 
take me around and I had to remind him that I was not 
exactly a novice in New York. 

"Why,” I said, "do you realize, my boy, that as early as 
in eighteen-ninety-three . . .” 

The date amused him. He laughed. 

246 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



"It will take you a bit of time to get acclimatized,” he 
said patronizingly, "but I am sure you’ll like it. Most Eu- 
ropeans do. You can get in touch with me at the bank 
every day between ten and five. Should anything puzzle 
you, let me know . . 

I promised I would. Nothing puzzled me much except 
that in just five days I was expected to deliver my first 
lecture. 

"Opening December fourth Grand Rapids,” read the 
radiogram of my manager and this frightened me. My 
American friends in Paris thought my English was "per- 
fect” but they never had to pay to hear me speak it. Then 
there was the matter of finding the appropriate key in 
which to talk. When I wrote my lecture in Paris, every 
word in it sounded true, but that was before I spent six 
days aboard an American ship. Looking through a window 
of my room at a busy corner of Madison Avenue, I won- 
dered what those hurrying men and women were like. 
Perhaps, I said timidly, some of them might be different 
from those I watched in the smoking room of the Levia- 
than. If so, I was all right; if not, I was sunk. The trouble, 
as I saw it, was that I still knew nothing of the present-day 
"American Americans.” I could have tried my lecture on 
my manager but his opinion did not interest me. He was 
accustomed to dealing with foreigners and, besides, he had 
made it clear from the very beginning of our negotiations 
that he merely wanted to bring back from Europe a "live” 



247 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Grand Duke. In his heart he thought that I was either a 
madman or a fake or both. I opened my address book and 
glanced at the names of the people I knew in New York. 
International bankers of German descent, dictatorial dow- 
agers with domiciles in Paris, polo players of the Prince of 
Wales’ set, owners of yachts spending winters in the South 
Seas — not a sign of an "American American” in the whole 
lot, not a single one capable of advising me on the mental 
reactions of the people in Grand Rapids. True enough, 
there was the name of my old friend Charles M. Schwab 
under the "S” but it would have taken a greater courage 
than mine to ask him to put aside the affairs of the Bethle- 
hem Steel Corporation and listen to a sermon on Happi- 
ness in Poverty. . . . 

Nightfall found me still searching for an "American 
American” in the City of New York. The manager of the 
hotel was quite willing to sit through the ordeal of a lec- 
ture but, alas, his Vs” sounded not unlike my own: he 
hailed from Germany where his father had been employed 
as landscape architect by my late uncle the Grand Duke 
of Baden. 

"I hate to think,” he finally said with commendable 
frankness, "what His Imperial Highness would have said 
had he known that his nephew would become a lecturer.” 
"So do I,” I answered, "but it does not bring us even an 
inch closer to the hearts of Grand Rapids.” 

I was about to give up in despair and let come what may 

248 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



when the telephone rang. Myron T. Herrick, American 
Ambassador to France and a lifelong friend of mine, was 
passing through New York on the way to his home in 
Cleveland. 

"Eureka! I have found an American American,” I 
shouted in lieu of greeting. 

"Thanks for the kind words,” said Herrick. "They cer- 
tainly sound nice to one who has just been nicknamed the 
unofficial French Ambassador to the United States.” 

He was referring to the silly denunciations hurled at 
him by some of the newspapers who failed to grasp Her- 
rick’s shrewd way of handling the French and accused him 
of lack of Americanism. 

"Tell me, old friend,” I said in all seriousness, "do you 
believe that there can be Happiness in Poverty?” 

"I do,” replied Herrick, "but the U. S. Congress does 
not. And neither do the French.” 

We laughed. I naturally hesitated to ask him to sacrifice 
his free evening, but the moment I explained the nature of 
my predicament he volunteered to be my first audience. 
I have regretted few things in my life so much as the fact 
that I did not take down what Herrick told me that night. 
Although not a "brilliant conversationalist,” in the sense 
that other celebrated American Ambassador Mr. Choate 
was, he possessed the supreme art of translating clear 
thinking into phrases of equally crystallized clearness. He 
dreaded platitudes not because he tried to be original at 

249 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



any cost, but because the long years spent by him in the 
councils of a great political party and in the diplomatic 
service made him weary of the solemnity of buncombe. It 
was saddening to think that a trivial incident of his busi- 
ness career — his connection with a concern that went into 
bankruptcy — had deprived him of the nomination for the 
Presidency but, looking at his elegant figure of a grand 
seigneur and listening to his remarks charged with delight- 
ful sarcasm, one realized that he was right in his deter- 
mination to avoid the risks of a mud-slinging campaign. 
Politics being what they are, it is not surprising that men 
of Herrick’s caliber should be denied the Great Prize of 
Democracy; in fact, it is quite astounding that they are 
permitted to serve their country at all. 

He let me read my lecture to the very end. Several times 
I stopped and said sheepishly "You must be bored,” but he 
shook his head and urged me to continue. When I finished, 
he looked at me for a moment as if seeing me for the first 
time and then began to laugh. This was unexpected. I did 
not intend to be humorous. 

"Please do not be offended,” he said, "but I cannot help 
it. The idea of your thinking that a lecture of this sort can 
appeal to the Americans is really funny. Now, let me give 
you a bit of cynical advice. I hate to tell you the truth but 
unless I do you are bound to be frightfully disillusioned.” 

He stopped laughing and his gay smile gave way to an 
expression of seriousness mixed with bitterness. 



250 



“POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



"Understand one thing,” he said. "Understand it now 
before it is too late. My countrymen are as curious as chil- 
dren and as intolerant as Spanish inquisitors. Methodists 
and Baptists, Catholics and Jews, none of them will be 
interested in your religion. They have their own and they 
all think theirs is the only right one. Take out everything 
dealing with your religion, put in its place the description 
of the Czarina’s jewelry and the Czar’s palaces. Tell them 
about diamonds and emeralds, rubies and sapphires, but for 
God’s sake not a word about religion. You follow the pa- 
pers, don’t you? You have seen what happened three weeks 
ago to that countryman of mine who tried to appeal to 
tolerance, haven’t you? Well, let it be a lesson to you.” 

This reference to the defeat of Alfred E. Smith coming 
from a republican of Herrick’s prominence baffled me. I 
have made it a rule never to comment on the political life 
of the country that extends its hospitality to me and I 
knew that a reply to Herrick’s speech would involve my 
breaking this self-imposed restriction. So I changed the 
subject and asked him whether he had already seen Lind- 
bergh. The mentioning of his "godson’s” name brought a 
smile back to his face. He was reluctant to credit his own 
incomparable strategy with the spontaneity of the French 
welcome to Lindbergh but the facts were stronger than his 
modesty: scarcely five weeks before the Lindbergh flight 
the anti-American feeling had reached its height in Paris, 
and a mob of hooligans had broken the windows of an 



251 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



American newspaper office in the Avenue de l’Opera and 
torn up the American flag in the Boulevard Poissoniere. 

"How does an ambassador go about changing the hos- 
tile feelings of a nation?” I asked Herrick a bit maliciously, 
knowing he had made it a point to deny the very fact of 
anti-American demonstrations in Paris. 

"The job is simple,” said Herrick. "An ambassador must 
be patient and wait for the arrival of a Charles Lind- 
bergh.” 

"And then?” 

"Then he does well to provide the baggageless hero with 
a pair of pajamas . . .” 



3 

Much as I respected Herrick, I decided not to follow 
his advice. Not until I had delivered sixty-seven lectures 
and spent three winters in America, did I realize that he 
was right. I had made a mistake but my defeat was fruit- 
ful. In no other way could I have gotten rid of the main 
regret of my life. Had I agreed with my wise friend and 
accepted his verdict, I would simply have canceled my 
contract and gone back to Paris, still cursing my fate for 
having been born a Grand Duke, still regretting my failure 
to relinquish my title and settle in the United States years 
ago. Fortunately I was stubborn. Fortunately I had a ser- 
mon in my system. This brought me face to face with 



252 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



thousands of people, "American Americans” and others. 

Some of them felt irritated: their daughters were mar- 
ried to European titles and the idea of a Grand Duke trav- 
eling around the country and mixing with Rotarians 
seemed to reflect on the standing of their sons-in-law. 
Some of them saw red: I dared to twist the tails of the 
sacred cows of liberalism and I openly expressed my pref- 
erence for men of action. Some of them talked freely and 
disclosed their real convictions: democracy or no democ- 
racy, they needed the help of Sunday schools and churches 
to keep the masses in check. 

I learned a lot. I met America and it changed my former 
estimate of the Empires. I used to reproach my relatives 
for their haughtiness, but I had never really known snob- 
bishness until I tried to seat a resident of Brookline, Massa- 
chusetts, and a Fifth Avenue millionaire at the same table. 
I used to be appalled by the unlimited power of the Man 
on the Throne, but even the most ruthless of all autocrats, 
my late father-in-law Emperor Alexander III, seemed dis- 
tinctly shy and full of scruples when compared with the 
dictators of Gary, Indiana. I used to blush at the thought 
of the barbaric treatment reserved for the national minori- 
ties in Imperial Russia, but that was before I read the 
advertisements in the New York newspapers soliciting the 
services of "Gentile” office boys. I used to say that the 
habit of blaming their governments for each and every ill 
had cost the Europeans their place in the sun, but then I 



253 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



witnessed the gruesome spectacle of 120,000,000 Ameri- 
cans booing their President and clamoring for a miracle. 

I was not disappointed: the discovery of truth, any 
truth, is invariably fascinating. But I did become less bitter 
in my denunciations of Europe. The thirty-five hundred 
miles of the Atlantic that appeared to be a frightful lot of 
water in the days of my youth dwindled to the size of a 
narrowish pond, with the people on both sides closely re- 
sembling each other in petty virtues and dominant vices, 
in the abandon of their hysteria and the recklessness of 
their hatreds. That silly billboard on the Boulevard des 
Italiens proclaiming that "the French must thank Uncle 
Shylock for their miseries” did not irritate me any more, 
for I saw another sign, placed on the road from Glendale 
to Pasadena which read "Our county is not able to repair 
its highways because the French do not pay their debt to 
the United States.” This was as it should be. This battle of 
billboards was bringing the world back to "normalcy,” to 
an era when the nations were speaking frankly and unre- 
servedly, instead of permitting college professors to tell 
them how they should feel toward each other. It was, of 
course, nobody’s fault but my own that I had to lecture 
on the Religion of Love and sleep aboard dusty Pullmans 
in order to discover that the Atlantic belonged to geog- 
raphy, but hatred belonged to humans. 

To tell all would take volumes. It is not the task of 
a traveling lecturer to write the History of America’s 

254 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



Transformation. He gathers his impressions wherever he 
goes and an evening spent in a New York speakeasy may 
sometimes be more revealing than a talk with Henry Ford. 
To a speakeasy I was brought by a party of friends, several 
rabbis among them, but to see Henry Ford I went alone. 
All of this happened in my post-Grand Rapids period. 



4 

Grand Rapids I shall not forget. It was my first "ap- 
pearance” in America. I stayed awake all night, listening 
to the rattle of the train and ringing for the porter at short 
intervals. 

"Will you bring me another pillow?” 

"Does this ventilator work?” 

"I want a glass of charged water.” 

I had three pillows hidden behind my handbags. I knew 
very well how to start the ventilator. And I was not 
thirsty. What I really needed was someone on whom I 
could try my "w’s.” I was not afraid of "th’s” and the 
difference between the "ee’s” and "i’s” was clear to me. 
But "w’s” frightened me. Non-existent in the Russian 
alphabet and pronounced as "v” by the Germans and the 
French, this perfidious letter haunted me. Myron Herrick 
thought there was nothing wrong with my "w’s” but then 
he knew too many French Prime Ministers. On the other 
hand, my sleepy, colored porter struck me as being just the 

255 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



man to pass on my pronunciation. I watched his face 
eagerly. I expected to see him puzzled. I was pleasantly 
disappointed: he merely said "yes, sir” each time and 
brought me the article containing the "w.” Getting off the 
train at Grand Rapids and feeling that the battle had been 
won, I tipped him lavishly. 

"Everything was just right,” I commended him. 

He smiled and bowed. 

"Merci beaucoup,” he said courteously. 

I stood still. 

"Where did you learn French?” 

"In France, sir. I danced in the Folies-Bergeres for two 
seasons. That’s why it is easy for me to understand for- 
eigners.” 

On the way to the hotel I did not dare look at my secre- 
tary. He pretended he was reading a newspaper but his lips 
were twitching. 

"Stop grinning,” I said. "Let us hope that chap is not 
the only former tap dancer in America. Perhaps there will 
be a few in my audience tonight.” 

He passed me the newspaper: 

"Read this.” 

I read the first three lines and then we both roared. 

"A large gathering is expected tonight in the New Bap- 
tist Church where Grand Duke Alexander of Russia will 
deliver his lecture on . . .” 

Not only was I always superstitious about everybody 

256 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 

and everything connected with the Church but the bulk 
of my lecture dealt with "the bankruptcy of official Chris- 
tianity.” When my manager promised me "the surround- 
ings of complete dignity” I thought he meant that I would 
not perform in a circus. How was I, or any European for 
that matter, to know that a church could be hired for a 
lecture? Had it been a Catholic church or a synagogue, I 
could at least have counted on the sense of humor of the 
clergy, but a Baptist church! I shuddered. 

"We are in for it,” said my secretary. "Le vin est tire.” 

He had an irritating habit of quoting French proverbs 
with the air of a man communicating the last will and 
testament of the Almighty. 

The remaining three hours, which I had hoped to spend 
in grave thoughts, were consumed by visitors. Reporters 
came and asked my opinion about the illness of King 
George. I said it was most unfortunate. A man who used 
to live in Odessa brought his seven-year-old son and a 
cello. "Everybody” in Grand Rapids believed that the boy 
played better than Casals. Would I like to hear him? I had 
to. Then I signed a dozen autograph books, each one con- 
taining Tom Mix and the Khedive of Egypt. Then I posed 
for the local photographer and tasted a homemade apple 
pie, "the best apple pie ever baked east of the Rocky 
Mountains.” Then my secretary tiptoed in and said in a 
tragic whisper: "The minister is waiting for us down- 
stairs.” 



257 



I 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



The minister turned out to be a pleasant, vigorous man. 
His handshake and manner of speech made me doubt the 
authenticity of my ideas about Baptists. He could easily 
have passed for a New York stockbroker. 

"Shall I ask him where we can get a bottle of brandy?” 
said my secretary in French. 

"My secretary wonders,” I translated to the minister, 
"if it is all right for me to lecture in a Baptist church? 
I have never been much of a churchgoer, don’t you 
see?” 

"It is never too late to reform,” said the minister. 

Just then we arrived and were shown into the vestry 
which my secretary insisted on calling "the dressing 
room.” 

The church was packed. The minister said there were 
eight hundred and fifty people in the audience but to me 
they looked like eight hundred and fifty thousand. Never 
in my life was I so frightened. When the minister said: "I 
have the great honor to present to you Grand Duke Alex- 
ander of Russia,” my hands began to tremble and my 
throat was dry. I got up and was about to cross toward the 
center of the platform when I suddenly heard the opening 
bars of the Russian National Anthem and saw my audience 
rise to their feet. I stood aghast. For the first time in eleven 
years I was listening to that melody. 

My secretary told me afterward that I went deathly 
pale. Personally I remember nothing. Sometimes I think I 

258 



“POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



must have fallen asleep in my room in New York and 
dreamt that I was lecturing in the New Baptist Church in 
Grand Rapids. The local papers said that I talked "in a 
clear melodious voice, never showing an inkling of emotion 
or bitterness.” I doubt it. 

I have delivered sixty-six lectures more since that day. 
In churches, universities, women’s clubs and private 
houses. I never disputed terms, place or time, insisting on 
just one clause in my contracts: that the Russian National 
Anthem must not be played, before, during or after my 
lectures. It is easy to live through the suicide of an Empire. 
It is deadly to hear its voice eleven years later. 



5 

I used to get piles of invitations whenever I was in New 
York. Not that people liked me or were unduly impressed 
with the reports about my lecture tour but because it is 
considered good form in the Borough of Manhattan to 
have a "tragic” Russian title squeezed between a British 
chap who knows what’s wrong with American women and 
a German economist who is concerned about the future 
of the gold standard. 

The three most interesting invitations of my American 
career arrived simultaneously. A group of prominent He- 
brew leaders of New York wanted me to dine with them 
and discuss the so-called "Jewish question.” The Army and 

259 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Navy Club thought I should make an address on the Five- 
Year Plan. And some friends in Detroit were urging me 
to come and meet Henry Ford. I immediately accepted all 
three invitations, and thereby hangs the tale of three ex- 
citing days of my exile. 

The "Hebrew dinner” took place in the private room 
of a speakeasy, it being the only oasis of good cooking and 
warm comradeship on the American continent. 

"Don’t you feel strange,” laughingly asked the gentle- 
man who presided at our table, "being the only Gentile, 
and a Grand Duke of Russia to boot, in the company of 
sixteen Hebrews, four of them rabbis?” 

No, I did not feel strange, if for no other reason than 
that only a week before while in Minneapolis I had received 
a letter from the manager of a local restaurant assuring me 
that he would be extremely happy to serve me a "real 
kosher dinner.” 

"And besides,” I said, "isn’t it only natural that I, a 
representative of what was admittedly the most anti- 
Semitic regime in the world should meet you gentlemen 
and ask you — and what about the United States?” 

'You must be joking,” exclaimed my neighbor on the 
right, a well-known Brooklyn rabbi. "Surely you do not 
attempt to compare the systematic persecution of our race 
in Imperial Russia with the complete freedom and equality 
we are enjoying in the United States?” 

"Freedom and equality!” I repeated slowly and 
260 



won- 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



dered why a man of his intelligence should want to shut 
his eyes on the truth. "Now tell me honestly, doctor, have 
you ever heard of a landlord of an apartment house in that 
much-maligned Imperial Russia refusing to accept a He- 
brew as a tenant?” 

"You are quoting something which exists in the snob- 
bish section of Manhattan only,” he said with a slight 
blush. "You cannot blame the entire nation for the arro- 
gant stupidity of a few landlords.” 

"No,” I answered, "I cannot and I do not intend to. 
But what about the so-called 'exclusive’ colleges of Amer- 
ica? Harvard and Princeton and Yale and many others, 
both in the East and on the Pacific Coast? Would you pre- 
tend that the boys of your race can enter those colleges on 
an equal basis with Gentiles? And what about your better 
clubs? Would you have me believe that there are no bar- 
riers separating the men of your race from becoming 
members of at least a dozen New York, Philadelphia, Bos- 
ton and San Francisco clubs? I am mentioning these four 
cities only because I know more about them, not because 
the same situation does not exist in many other cities and 
towns.” 

"Well, it’s like this,” he said compromisingly, glancing 
at the other participants of the dinner. "Those colleges and 
clubs which you have in mind are not anti-Semitic. They 
are simply afraid, the progressive spirit of our race being 
what it is, that the complete absence of restrictions would 

261 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



create a difficult handicap for the Gentile candidates.” 

I had to laugh. Unconsciously he was repeating the 
favorite argument of the leading anti-Semites in Rus- 
sia. 

"I begin to think,” I said, "that my grandfather Em- 
peror Nicholas First was a much better Hebrew than you 
are because when the same argument was used by the Rus- 
sian Generals against the admission of the Jews into his 
army, he simply said: 'An Emperor of Russia cannot divide 
his subjects into Jews and Gentiles. He protects the loyal 
subjects and he chastizes the traitors. No other criterion 
should guide his decisions!’” 

"Ah, but that was your grandfather!” exclaimed my 
cunning adversary. "But what about your late brother-in- 
law, the last Czar? I do not believe he has ever uttered 
anything as tolerant . . .” 

"No,” I admitted. "His tolerance was not much broader 
than that of an American friend of mine, a wealthy gen- 
tleman in Texas, who advised me not to accept an invita- 
tion to dinner because my prospective hosts were Catho- 
lics!” 

We argued for five hours. Three a.m. found us still 
closeted in the smoke-filled room of that comfortable 
speakeasy in the East Fifties, unable to agree and unwilling 
to concede each other even an inch of ground. We would 
have argued well into the morning if the proprietor had 
not finally knocked on the door and said that we must go. 
262 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



He bowed to no one in his respect for tolerance but there 
was such a thing as a curfew hour and he believed in obey- 
ing laws. 

6 

A still hotter debate awaited me at the Army and Navy 
Club. Its directors had taken it for granted that I would 
curse Soviet Russia and predict the imminent failure of 
the Five-Year Plan. This I refused to do. Nothing revolts 
me more than the spectacle of a Russian exile who lets his 
thirst for revenge overcome his spirit of national pride. 

In talking to the members of the Army and Navy Club 
I made it clear that I was a Russian first and after that a 
Grand Duke. I described to them as best I could the un- 
limited resources of Russia and said that there was no 
doubt in my mind that the Five-Year Plan would succeed. 

It may take,” I added, "a year or two more but in the 
long run not only will the Plan succeed but it will have to 
be followed by another Plan, possibly a Ten-Year or a 
Fifteen-Year Plan. Never again shall Russia consent to be 
the dumping ground of the world. Never again shall she 
depend on any foreign power for the development of her 
natural wealth. The Czars could never have accomplished 
a program of such magnitude because their perspective was 
clouded by too many scruples, diplomatic and others. The 
present rulers of Russia are realists. They are unscrupulous 
in the sense that Peter the Great was. They are as unscru- 

263 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

pulous as your railroad kings were fifty years ago and as 
your bankers are today, with the only difference that there 
is more personal honesty and unselfishness in their case.” 

It so happened that seated at the speaker’s table, right 

by my side, was General , the descendant of a famous 

railroad magnate and a director of two score of corpora- 
tions. When I finished amidst a rather puzzled applause, 
our eyes met. He thought I was a madman. 

"A strange speech for one whose brothers were killed by 
the Bolsheviks,” he said with an air of thorough disgust. 

"You are quite right, General,” I replied, "but then, we 
Romanoffs are a strange family. The greatest of us killed 
his own son because the latter tried to interfere with his 
Five-Year Plan. . . .” 

For a moment he remained silent, then as an after- 
thought he asked: "But what would you advise us to do to 
parry that Danger?” 

"I really don’t know,” I said. "After all, General, that 
is your lookout. I am a Russian, don’t you see.” 

In all fairness to the other members of the Army and 
Navy Club I must admit that when the first shock had 
blown over they came to shake hands with me and praised 
my "frankness” and "courage.” 

"Do you know what you have done today?” said the 
president of the club when I was leaving. "You have made 
a near-Bolshevik out of me. . . .” 

"And what about me?” I returned. "I have done some- 

264 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 



thing worse still to myself. I have forfeited my claims to 
the non-existent crown of Russia.” 



7 

And then I met Henry Ford. When I saw him in his 
Dearborn domain, the Depression was still young and not 
all of the great reputations dead. He was still revered as 
America’s major prophet, as a genius who had discovered 
the secret of perennial economic bliss. 

My anticipation was keen. To me, as to most Europeans, 
he was a Symbol, a Legend, the Coat of Arms of the 
United States. I have always envied America her possession 
of Henry Ford. It seemed to me that the tag of nationality 
of the Man of Dearborn was helping the world-at-large to 
reach a clearer conception of the full meaning of the term 
"American.” Perhaps because no other country has ever 
publicized its representative citizens to such an extent, a 
"Frenchman,” an "Englishman,” or a "Russian” does not 
create in the mind of a foreigner an immediate association 
with one particular name. But an "American” . . . This 
never fails: in ninety cases out of a hundred it evokes the 
image of Henry Ford. A peasant in far-away Siberia may 
profess his ignorance of the identity of George Washington 
but he will be certain to remember the name of that odd 
contraption which plows its way through the dust and 
mud of the country road. This being the case, it is only 

265 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



logical that the future of that Russian peasant should in- 
terest Henry Ford. He began our conversation by asking 
what I thought of the American "possibilities” in Russia. 
I answered that I considered them quite excellent but that 
the American manufacturers had failed so far to compete 
successfully with the aggressive salesmanship of the Ger- 
mans. 

"But the money,” said Ford; "have they got the 
money?” 

"No,” I admitted, "there is no money in present-day 
Russia but there is and always will be a stupendous wealth 
of raw materials. I suppose you know it better than I 
do.” 

"I don’t,” he said with almost childish stubbornness. 
"All I know is that they haven’t got the money. The Gen- 
eral Electric people sold them some stuff and I hear they 
are having a pretty tough time trying to collect.” 

I felt amused. There was I, a man outlawed by the 
Soviet Government, fighting the cause of Communistic 
Russia against Henry Ford. 

"How are you going to surmount this crisis,” I asked 
him next, "if you continue to neglect the potential largest 
market of the world? Don’t you think there is a depression 
in America today partly because you have insisted on ig- 
noring the existence of one sixth of the earth’s surface?” 

"There is a depression in America today,” said Ford, 
laying a somewhat sarcastic emphasis on the word "depres- 

266 



"POTSDAM U. S. A.” 

sion,” "simply because our people have become too soft. 
Why, look at our farmers . . .” 

He got up, crossed toward the window, as if to get a 
better view of the America that was lying outside, and 
began to talk at great length about the necessity to pro- 
mote the "back-to-the-land” movement and to "indus- 
trialize” farming. 

At first I thought something must have happened to my 
hearing or that I simply could not understand his English. 
After what I had just seen in the course of my tour 
through the Middle West, it seemed incredible that any- 
one, least of all a man with Ford’s instinct for realities, 
should advocate the increase of farming as a panacea for 
the ills of the country. Ridiculous as was the notion of an 
impoverished European giving a lesson in economics to an 
American billionaire, the attitude of my host made me 
forget the difference of our positions. 

"You are all wrong!” I exclaimed with great feeling, 
and this brought an odd expression to Ford’s ascetic face. 
He looked utterly puzzled, as if a high school boy had 
interrupted the delivery of His Holiness’ encyclical with a 
silly remark. Then he smiled, a smile of pity and sym- 
pathy. 

"Well,” he laughed, "I must admit that is the first time 
in the last fifteen years that I have heard a man use the 
word 'wrong’ in talking about me. So, I am wrong — 
am I?” 



267 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



He shook his head and was silent. In order to relieve the 
tension I asked him what he thought of my grand-nephew 
Prince Louis Ferdinand of Germany who was employed at 
that time in one of his factories. 

"Nice fellow. Capable fellow,” said Ford. "Want to see 
him?” 

"I would love to,” I answered. What I really wanted to 
say was that both the present employer of the young 
Prince and the latter’s grandfather, the Kaiser, were adepts 
of the same imperial faith in the infallibility of a sover- 
eign’s judgment. A man cannot command an army of 
thirteen million soldiers or possess a billion dollars and not 
be "right,” at least in his own estimation. To think that I 
had crossed the ocean and traveled all the way up to Michi- 
gan to find myself back in Potsdam. . . . 



268 



****** * ** * * » * * * * * * * * * * * * * » * * * * * » »»****»4hHhH>**** 



CHAPTER THIRTEEN 
"A LECTURER SEES IT THROUGH” 

i 

The Associated Press dispatch read: 

Grand Duke Alexander of Russia arrived in Hollywood today 
for a brief stay. Numerous Slavic inhabitants of this city who 
have based their chief claim to greatness on the fact that they 
were Aides in the Ducal suite, Generals in the Imperial Army 
and otherwise high in the Russian Court shenanigans discovered 
that they had to stay out of town for the next three days. 

This surprised me. I had no intention whatsoever of 
checking up on anybody’s claims. I took it for granted 
that everything grows fast on the rich soil of California, 
be it oranges or Russian titles. I came because my manager 
wanted me to and because I had always been a fervent 
motion picture fan. One star in particular attracted me, 
John Gilbert, which was only natural, considering that for 
many years he had been playing the parts of Russian Grand 
Dukes. I envied him. His gorgeous boyard costumes, his 
spectacular supper parties, the informality of his manner, 
the pair of graceful, unmuzzled tigers that followed on 
his heels, his dominant way with the beautiful ladies-in- 

269 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * • : • * 

waiting — all this awakened bitter memories of the strict 
regulations which made myself and my cousins wear plain 
uniforms, limited our choice of household pets to German 
dachshunds and Persian cats, and forced us to sleep on 
narrow, iron bunks so different from those luxurious triple 
beds constructed in Mr. Gilbert’s apartments. "A Grand 
Duke of St. Petersburg meets a Grand Duke of Culver 
City” — I thought this would please even my manager who 
never stopped complaining that I interfered with his "pro- 
motion work.” Unfortunately this epochal meeting never 
took place. By the time I had delivered my lectures in and 
around Los Angeles and got through with several "highly 
respected” lawyers who wanted to see me on the part of 
"someone” whom I "love very much,” I had to catch my 
train for Denver and points east. 

The mysterious "someone” turned out to be none other 
than Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, my late 
brother-in-law who had been shot by the Bolsheviks twelve 
years before near the city of Perm. There were four indi- 
viduals in Los Angeles who claimed to be the "genuine” 
Grand Duke Michael. Three of them preferred to be rep- 
resented by their lawyers, but the fourth came to see me 
in person. A plumpish man of about five-seven (my late 
brother-in-law stood six-three in his stockinged feet) he 
spoke with a strong Ukrainian accent and insisted on call- 
ing me "Your Holiness.” He made up in courage what he 
lacked in height and knowledge of titles. His uniform — an 



270 



"A LECTURER SEES IT THROUGH” 



exotic mixture of medieval Moscow and modern Culver 
City — was in itself a sight worth a visit to Los Angeles. 

"You remember this uniform, Your Holiness,” he ex- 
claimed on entering my room. 

I did. I had seen it last in Elinor Glyn’s His Hour. 

How is my mother?” he inquired next. 

His mother” had been dead for two years. 

He took this news bravely. Just touched his eyes with 
an enormous monogrammed handkerchief and said, "God 
bless her soul.” 

The local papers don’t go in much for international 
news, explained his escort, a white-haired, dignified per- 
son who looked like an old-fashioned president of a college. 

I waited. I was in no hurry to throw them out; the 
primitiveness of their fakery made it thoroughly inoffen- 
sive. 



Some of the best people in this town are my closest 
friends, ’ said the gentleman of many medals. 

I waited again. 

"They believe me implicitly but I thought a signed affi- 
davit of Your Holiness might help me to disarm the ene- 
mies of the Romanoffs.” 

I said a few words in French to my secretary. 

"You are not angry?” asked the escort. 

Not at all,” I said. "I simply asked my secretary to 
bring his camera.” 

"A camera?” 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"Yes, a camera. I would like to take a photograph of 
your friend. I have quite a collection of men posing as 
Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich but I never saw any- 
one like him.” 

"I used to wear a beard,” said the impostor timidly. 

"That was wrong,” I advised. "Never do it again. Just 
stay as you are.” 

"So you won’t sign the affidavit?” 

"Sorry, old man.” 

"I guess we’d better go,” said the escort. 

They left as they had come. Heads up, their courage 
undiminished, their faces reflecting straightforwardness 
and honesty. I hope for their sake that they are still being 
received by the "best people” in Los Angeles. In a world 
overridden by a passion for details they seemed to be the 
last Mohicans of the Theatre that was Theatre. 

2 

This also happened in Los Angeles. 

"Say, what’s your name, anyway?” asked a gentleman 
seated next to me at a luncheon during the course of 
which I had been addressed in turn as "Your Highness,” 
"Excellency,” and "Monseigneur.” 

"My name is Alexander.” 

"Alexander what?” 

"Alexander nothing, just Alexander.” 



272 



"A LECTURER SEES IT THROUGH” 

>fr .|i >|« .fr >fr *X* »fr * 

"Now listen,” he said impatiently, "let’s get this matter 
straight . . . Didn’t you folks have a last name of some 
description?” 

I confessed that there was a last name in our family but 
that a well-established custom precluded our being ad- 
dressed by that name. In order to make myself thoroughly 
understood I pointed out that while the intimate friends 
of the Prince of Wales may call him "David” or "Edward,” 
he has never been referred to as "Mr. Windsor,” so far. 

My neighbor shook his head dubiously and remained 
silent for a while. 

"Now then,” he exclaimed suddenly, "let’s suppose for 
argument’s sake that my name is Johnny Walker. Would 
I be introduced to you as Mr. Johnny or as Mr. Walker?” 

"You would be introduced to me as Mr. Walker, to be 
sure, but had that been my name I should have been in- 
troduced to you as Grand Duke Johnny.” 

"That settles it,” he admitted gloomily. "You win.” 

It occurred to me later that I had no business contra- 
dicting him. This man, so firm in his belief that every 
human being should possess a last name, belonged to the 
rapidly vanishing species of Americans who remained im- 
mune to the feverish interest in royalty displayed by their 
contemporaries. I know of no kingdom nor empire where 
the worshiping of titles, blue blood, and glorified ancestors 
ever achieved the importance it enjoys at present in the 
United States. 



273 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



American Ambassadors to the Court of St. James’s are 
being stampeded each spring by thousands of applicants 
anxious to curtsy before Their Britannic Majesties. Amer- 
ican girls coming from every state in the Union spend 
several months in London and invest a small fortune in 
court dresses, etiquette teachers, and "presentation parties,” 
while the ceremony itself lasts but a few moments. 

American captains of industry appear to be highly 
pleased at seeing their names included in the Social Regis- 
ters of their respective cities. American counsels for public 
relations, employed at high salaries, exercise a real control 
over the non-office hours of their bosses and conduct 
lengthy campaigns in order to secure for them a piece of 
ribbon denoting a foreign decoration. 

American knowledge of the Almanach de Gotha is noth- 
ing short of miraculous. Judging by my experience, this 
dry and rather tedious book, dedicated to the family trees 
of the aristocracies, should be a best seller in the United 
States. I shall never forget an utterly one-sided conversa- 
tion I had with a lady I met at a social gathering at the 
house of a political leader. For twenty good minutes, never 
hesitating for a word, a date, a title, or a name, she talked 
about my Russian, English, Danish, German, and Spanish 
relatives. She told me more about them than I had ever 
known myself. She was equally strong on the subject of 
the First Crusade and the present French descendants of 
its participants, and she had followed at close range the 



*74 



"A LECTURER SEES IT THROUGH” 

»t< t* *t* »> * X * * X * > fr *X* » fr »fr * fr «fr * fr » fr » fr > fr > $ ■ > 1 * 't 1 fr > fr " t « > fr > t ‘ ft » t 4 % % < % & 

fate of each and every aide of William the Conqueror. 
When she finally tackled the passenger list of the good 
ship Mayflower, I became slightly alarmed. I felt as though 
her staccato narrative was succeeding in bridging the gulf 
of centuries and was putting me face to face with the 
gloomy and hungry squires who landed on that memorable 
last Thursday in November. 

The possessor of all this astounding knowledge lived in 
a small up-state town, and considering the purely local 
ambitions of her hard-working husband, I seriously doubt 
whether she had ever had any occasion to use it for the 
least practical purpose. Hers was a classical case of "follow 
the leader.” She made me realize for the first time that my 
American friends were getting more and more "royal,” 
while I myself was becoming more and more "democratic.” 
Ambiguous as these two adjectives are, I can think of no 
better way to express my amazement at the present men- 
tality of American Society. It may have been merely snob- 
bish in the days of the Manhattan "400,” but by now it 
resembles the Austrian Imperial Court. It would require 
no lesser expert than the late High Chamberlain of the 
Hapsburgs to appreciate that incredibly complicated Law 
of American Social Priority which puts a premium on 
Boston, looks askance at New York, and makes a wry 
face at a midwestern city. 

I openly confess my inability to understand the nature 
of the mysterious connection between the geographical 



27 5 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

» |H fr » | t > $ > » | >«^< »| l t|» » | > < $ » » $ » » | « » fr » ♦ « t|> < $ > <| h ^> «$» » ♦ « t|« 

location of the city a man lives in and the batting average 
credited to him by the Big League of American Society. 
I only know that each time I returned to New York from 
Dayton, Ohio; Springfield, Illinois; South Bend, Indiana; 
or from any other place west of the Hudson River, I was 
sure to hear this or that Manhattan hostess exclaim in tones 
of genuine sorrow: "How dreadful! How perfectly dread- 
ful! You must have met some awful people.” 

I did my best to deny this contention. With the greatest 
enthusiasm I talked of many pleasant evenings spent in 
the hospitable homes of the hinterland, but I was invari- 
ably confronted with a sweet, slightly ironical smile which 
always meant that, while my compliment had been appre- 
ciated, my sincerity was being questioned. 

Thus in the days of the Kings of France one remained 
nobody unless one moved to Paris and settled within walk- 
ing distance of the Royal Palace, and thus it is taken for 
gospel truth on the Island of Corsica that only a thor- 
oughly bad Corsican would choose to stay where he was 
born instead of following the example of Bonaparte. 

By the time a stranger in America succeeds in memoriz- 
ing his lessons in social geography, another fine problem 
appears on the horizon: a few weeks’ stay in Boston, Phila- 
delphia, or New York discloses the existence of innumer- 
able distinctions between different prominent social sets 
within the limits of the same community. The following 

276 



"A LECTURER SEES IT THROUGH” 

» | > » ♦ « » | « » | | » | < » * « >|> » + « » | « » | > » + « « $ ♦<> { [« » $ > 

characteristic dialogue took place on many occasions dur- 
ing my sojourn in the East: 

‘'Would you dine with us Thursday?” 

"I am sorry, I have already accepted the invitation of 
Mr. and Mrs. X.” 

"You have accepted the invitation of whom?” 

I was obliged to repeat the name, though it is well known 
to every American. 

"I have never heard of them. Who are they?” 

"Well, all I know of them is that Mr. X’s father was 
chiefly responsible for the construction of one of the great- 
est western railroads. I believe this achievement of his com- 
pleted the building of your country; at least I am certain 
that it was described to me as such by my teachers some 
fifty years ago. I wouldn’t vouch, however, for the identity 
of the vessel that brought his forebears to America. For all 
I know they might have swum across the Atlantic.” 

"I have never heard of them, I am sure,” repeated the 
stubborn lady, and then we both laughed. It happened 
that Mr. and Mrs. X belonged to a different social set. 

History tells us that an illustrious English lord expressed 
great annoyance at so much talk about Mr. Newton. After 
all, who was that man Newton? His Lordship felt quite 
positive of never having met him at the court of Their 
Majesties. 



2 77 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



3 

Like all lecturers, I was proud of my fan mail. Its bulk 
was provided by autograph seekers and cranks. The former 
can be found in England and in Germany, but the latter 
exist nowhere outside the United States. 

Demands for money varied and so did threats. I was 
asked all kinds of sums, as high as one hundred thousand 
dollars — which I was supposed to deposit in a mail-box in 
San Bernardino, California — and as low as one half of 
my share "of the Romanoffs’ millions in the Bank of Eng- 
land” which I promptly mailed to Mr. TBC, General 
Delivery, Seattle, Washington. I hope the gentleman suc- 
ceeded in collecting it. I did exactly as I was ordered: made 
a draft payable to the order of "cash” on the Bank of 
England, Threadneedle Street, London, for a sum of "fifty 
percent of Grand Duke Alexander’s share of the Roma- 
noffs’ millions.” 

More original were the threats. Mere shooting never 
satisfied my correspondents. A Chicago "friend of Soviet 
Russia” was going to blow up the Drake Hotel. A Mon- 
treal champion "of the national minorities in the Balkans” 
accused me of doing propaganda work for King Alexander 
of Yugoslavia; my morning coffee was to contain "enough 
germs to start an epidemic of typhoid fever.” A Palm 
Beach "enemy of all parasites” was prepared to demonstrate 

278 



"A LECTURER SEES IT THROUGH” 



the efficiency of his secret invention, "the death-dealing 
rays,” by destroying my apartment at the Everglades from 
a distance of ten miles. Then there was that "honest Rus- 
sian of Harlem” who never failed to greet my arrival 
in New York with a message which read: "No Grover 
Whalen would be able to protect you against the ire of 
the working class.” The retirement of Mr. Whalen made 
no impression on him. He flatly refused to use Mr. Mul- 
rooney’s name. 

Toward the end of my third winter of lecturing I had 
my favorites among cranks. I came to know their hand- 
writing and stationery. I thought I had learned all there 
was to be learned about that ever-growing group of the 
American population. It remained, however, for the chair- 
man of a celebrated New York bank to introduce me to 
the queerest human in the United States. He came with a 
"proposition.” He was going to build a "temple” for me. 
I was to be paid nearly a million dollars for a series of two 
hundred lectures spread over a period of four years. The 
choice of the topics and the length of lectures were to be 
determined by myself. No admission price was to be 
charged, no collections made. 

"Are you so impressed by my books?” I asked him. 
"Never read them,” was his frank answer. 

"Are you a spiritualist?” 

"Decidedly not. I think it’s so much bunk.” 

"Then what made you come here?” 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

+%» * « » j ++ fr o ft » $ ♦ » | « ♦$»* $ *<$* *$» »$« « $ » ^ * 1 * * 1 * * $ * *♦* * ♦ **$* * $ * * $ * * $ * *i* * $ * *i* 4* * $ * 4* 4* * $ * * $ * ^ * $ * ► i * * $ ♦ » i< * $ * * 1 * 

"It’s like this,” he said confidentially, moving closer. 
"I have discovered the origin of wars and revolutions. It’s 
the food we eat.” 

"The food?” 

"Exactly. Meat. Poultry. Fish. That’s what makes us 
act like animals.” 

"I see. You are a vegetarian.” 

"I am and I want everybody to be like me. Six months 
on a strict diet of vegetables and you won’t recognize this 
world. There is no other way of bringing about Eternal 
Peace.” 

"Are you promoting any particular brand of vege- 
tables?” 

He frowned. 

"You don’t seem to understand me,” he said. "I am 
promoting nothing but Eternal Peace. Mine is not a com- 
mercial proposition. I simply want you to announce at 
the end of each one of your sermons that you accredit your 
miraculous escape from all dangers to the fact that you 
never tasted meat and always lived on vegetables.” 

"What makes you think that it would impress people?” 

"I know it would.” 

When he left, I reread the letter of introduction given 
to him by my banker-friend. It said: "Mr. is a valu- 

able client of ours. I am willing to vouch for his integrity 
and guarantee any proposition he makes to you.” 



280 



"A LECTURER SEES IT THROUGH” 



4 

My lecture tour completed, I went to Washington to 
keep an appointment with my own past in the house of 
Mrs. H where I often dined in the summer of 1893. A 
woman in her late eighties, my hostess had been brought 
up in the school of depressions. She was the only American 
I had ever met who remembered anything that happened 
more than six months before. To watch her read news- 
papers was sheer delight. 

"The hottest May twenty-fifth in the history of the 
United States,” she would mutter, glancing at the head- 
lines. "Stuff and nonsense. They know damn well that 
it’s not true. Why, I myself remember at least twenty 
summers when it was much hotter on May twenty-fifth. 
‘Three victims of heat.’ Three victims, indeed. . . . One 
was probably run over by a truck while the other two died 
from bad liquor. Why blame it on the weather? 'The most 
crucial moment in the history of the United States, says 
Secretary of the Treasury.’ Well, you couldn’t expect 
him to remember anything, could you? How about 
eighteen-seventy- three when almost every savings bank 
and every railroad went into bankruptcy? 'The coming 
elections will be remembered by generations to come, says 
the nominee.’ That’s what every nominee has said since 
the day that fellow Grant defeated General Robert E. Lee. 

281 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



Why, in four years from today no American living will 
remember the name of the defeated candidate. . . . Some- 
times I am glad I am a resident of Washington and can’t 
vote for any one of them. What this country needs is 
a law disfranchising ninety-nine percent of its inhabit- 
ants.” 

"And the remaining one percent? Who are they?” 

"Oh, the professional politicians. The ward-heelers and 
the county dog-catchers. They run this country anyway. 
Why bother the boobs at all?” 

She would say all of this, not in the manner of a gray- 
haired bore who constantly cries over the Good Old Days 
but in the vigorous tones of a clear-thinking human being 
who refuses to be impressed by the rattle and the hysteria 
of the American bandwagon. The very expression "Good 
Old Days” was banned in the house of Mrs. H. 

"Stop lying,” she would interrupt anyone who tried to 
glorify the past at the expense of the present. "Things were 
never better or worse than they are now. Same grafting, 
same love-making, same drinking, same ignorance, same 
jokes. Nothing has changed, except that our grand- 
daughters are less hypocritical and less vicious than we 
were.” 

On the night I dined in her house in the spring of 1930 
there was a grave discussion at the table. Several gentle- 
men present, New York bankers and United States Sen- 
ators, were trying to determine what object lesson, if any, 

282 



"A LECTURER SEES IT THROUGH” 



Americans would derive from the great depression of the 
1930’s. 

"They will realize that the strength of our country lies 
in our strict adherence to the gold standard,” said a famous 
banker. 

"They will finally open their eyes on the existing inter- 
dependence of the nations of the world,” said an editorial 
writer revered as a major prophet of the United States by 
his countrymen. 

They will come out of this depression better citizens 
and greater respecters of our Constitution,” said a ruddy- 
cheeked Senator. 

"They will forget in less than twenty years that there 
ever has been a depression in the nineteen-thirties,” said 
Mrs. H. "Long before nineteen-forty is here you fellows 
will be unloading again all the trash that can be gathered 
in Central Europe and South America . . .” 

She nodded at the trio of New York bankers, who 
laughed respectfully but none too gayly. 

When it was my turn to speak, I asked to be excused. I 
did not want to lie in the presence of Mrs. H and I feared 
that were I to speak frankly I would be misunderstood by 
my listeners. Some of them were self-made men, conscious 
of their success and extremely proud of their humble be- 
ginnings. They would have resented my ideas, possibly 
would have taken them as a personal insult. 

"Speak up,” said Mrs. H, "you know something about 

283 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



debacles and storms. Give us the European point of view.” 
"I’d rather wait, if you don’t mind.” 

"Wait for what?” 

"For further demonstrations of the correctness of my 
theory.” 



5 

I have waited now for three years, clipping newspaper 
items dealing with bankruptcies and gathering data on 
the heads of the defunct institutions. And while it would 
naturally take a better equipped statistician than myself 
to present a complete report, what I have in my possession 
is sufficiently impressive. My theory is simple, just as sim- 
ple as that only lesson which has been provided by the 
American Depression so far: Thou shalt not make an idol 
out of a self-made man! 

My clippings tell me that more than ninety percent of 
banks that failed and factories that shut their doors were 
founded or headed by self-made men. Not only in the 
United States but in Europe as well. Hatry in England, 
Kreuger in Sweden and Osterick in France — these three 
spectacular bankrupts of the Old World belonged to that 
selfsame group of miraculous self-made men who are re- 
vered as half-gods in the United States. And the worst 
stricken major industry of America happens to be the 
motion picture industry, an industry that owes its origin 
to the efforts of Polish and Central European immigrants. 

284 



“A LECTURER SEES IT THROUGH” 



I need not quote names or provide charts. Anyone who 
reads the newspapers knows that whenever there occurred 
a "spectacular” bankruptcy in the last four years, the 
heads of the institution that failed turned out to be men 
not prepared by their upbringing or professional educa- 
tion for the positions they came to occupy. 

Irritating as it is to most Americans, there is, always has 
been and always will be such a thing as "tradition.” The 
Rothschilds and the Mendelssohns are what they are not 
because there is so much gold in their coffers, but because 
they were born in an atmosphere permeated with banking 
tradition. The founders of their Houses may have been 
self-made men, but, in the first place, they lived in the 
beginning of the ninteenth century when the industrial 
world was still young and, in the second place, none of 
them had built a fortune overnight. It took them nearly 
a century to become "the” Rothschilds and "the” Men- 
delssohns although even the least talented of them knew 
much more about banking than do the miracle-bankers 
of the United States. 

This sounds like a page out of the First Reader: a baker 
bakes bread, a shoemaker makes shoes. And so it is. Had the 
Americans of the 1920’s been guided by the wisdom of the 
First Reader, there would be less suffering in the United 
States today. No one, not even the selfsame press agents 
who have made "national figures” out of loud-voiced 
mediocrities and solemn bores can provide a plausible ex- 

285 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



planation of the fact that a nation which always insisted 
that only "specialists” be permitted to prescribe castor oil 
for a stomach ache has allowed tailors, shepherds and fur- 
riers to head its banking institutions. 

I am talking of banks and bankers, both because no 
other industry in America has been conducted in a more 
haphazard fashion and because the glorification of self- 
made men is the only commandment respected by Wall 
Street. 

"There are no bankers in America, only salesmen,” said 
Witte, Russian Minister of Finance, in 1893. Coming from 
a self-made man who began his life as a railroad clerk, it 
sounded bewildering. It took me nearly forty years to 
realize the real meaning of his remark. But then it took 
America nearly four years of suffering, hunger and heart- 
break to say that politics should be run by politicians. 



286 






CHAPTER FOURTEEN 
THE RECAPTURE 

i 

It is long past the cocktail-hour and the sad-eyed violinist 
is wiping heavy drops of perspiration from his brow. He 
has fought since early afternoon with the sunlit stillness 
of this deserted cafe and he is about to give in. 

I sit and listen. I am back in Europe, in Monte Carlo. 
My brandy is marked "Napoleon” and the name of the 
song played by the orchestra is "Gay Paris.” No restaurant 
can afford to serve Napoleon brandy and Paris was never 
gay, but I have just returned from America and I do not 
mind cheerful lies. 

I am telling you that the only thing to do is to scrape 
together what little money we still have and go to Tahiti. 
This depression is getting on my nerves. I can’t stand it 
any longer.” 

The man at the adjoining table must be an optimist. Or 
possibly he has read too many Cook’s pamphlets. I person- 
ally can do without Tahiti. I intend to stay right where I 
am, on the French Riviera. It is curious that I should wind 
up by settling where my father and my sister died, but I 

287 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



think of them without sorrow. I am supremely happy. I 
have attained my goal. The recapture. It may not have 
come in the way I expected but it is comforting that after 
a life the like of which few men have lived I still can see 
that all of it, every bit of it, was beautiful. Had I been 
shot in 1918 I would have died regretting lots of things. 
Now I regret nothing. "Do your job and do it well.” I 
never had a job and whatever I did was done badly, but 
America cured me of the self-consciousness of the dilet- 
tante. I saw the Great Efficient Men at the moment of a 
grave crisis and I am glad to be a dilettante. Somehow it 
has kept me from being contaminated by their hysteria. 
Thanks to America I have discovered also why the Bour- 
bons "learn nothing.” Because they could never find any- 
thing worth learning, anything that they had not tried. 
Because, not unlike me, they had never in the course of 
their exile encountered anyone who really and truly knew 
his job. 

"Let everyone sweep in front of his own door and the 
entire world will be clean.” As a doctrine of untamed 
individualism, these words of the dying Goethe are quite 
impressive but as practical advice they fail to measure up 
to the requirements of the living. How does one go about 
sweeping in front of one’s door? By locking the conven- 
tions in or by dusting them out? I have tried both and I 
have found that the world looks its gloomiest when swept 
clean. The 'World War set us all scrubbing in front of our 



288 



THE RECAPTURE 



respective doors and so has the depression. And yet . . . 

The violinist is getting desperate. He motions to the 
orchestra to stop and plays a solo, "Quand l’amour meurt.” 
When I first heard that song, Mussolini was in his cradle 
while Hitler had not been born. Men of Action. Men of 
Destiny. Men of the Hour. A passage from the diary of 
Emperor Alexander I comes to my mind: "Tilsit. 1807. 
Spent the whole afternoon with Napoleon. I can forgive 
him all but the fact that he is such a frightful liar. How 
can I trust him?” Can anyone trust a Man of Destiny? 

"Quand l’amour meurt . . .” The violinist must have 
his own sentimental reasons for playing that silly old song 
again. What was the exact year when I heard it first? I 
listen to the music for a while and then I recall. 1889. 
Paris. "The” Bar Americain. Just about the time I met 
Archduke Johann Nepomuk Salvator who preferred to 
be addressed by his assumed name of "Mr. John Orth” and 
who quite unconsciously kept me from burning my 
bridges. 



2 

When I met John Orth in a hotel in Paris his marriage 
to Milly Stubel, the fifteen-year-old Austrian dancer, was 
providing the main topic of gossip to all the idle courtiers 
of Europe. The world was still young — it happened in the 
1880’s. No American aviators were crossing the Atlantic; 
no Hitlers were becoming heads of governments, and all 

289 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

that an Archduke had to do to become a front page sensa- 
tion was to spot out a pretty girl during a military parade 
in the small Austrian city of Linz, stop his horse in front 
of her, lift her in his arms and drive to a nearby church. 

Had a thing of this caliber happened to any other man, 
it is certain that the marriage would have been dissolved, 
the parents of Milly Stubel given a handsome settlement 
and the whole incident forgotten a week later. But my 
friend was a Hapsburg, and so was his uncle the Emperor 
Franz Joseph. Decorative as were their respective whiskers, 
they failed to disguise the protruding jaw of the House 
of Hapsburg, the sign of the world’s prize stubbornness 
and conceit. 

The Archduke suspected that he had acted foolishly, 
but hated to hear people yell at him. The Emperor had 
been young once himself, but he could not permit anyone, 
not even his nephew, to talk back to him. It wound up 
in a general row. 

He who was Archduke Johann Nepomuk Salvator be- 
came Mr. John Orth, a gentleman expelled from Austria, 
cut off without a cent and closely followed by the secret 
service men of the enraged Emperor. He had to move fast: 
for all he knew the Austrian detectives might try to kidnap 
Milly Stubel. And so he went from Austria to Switzerland, 
from Switzerland to Spain, from Spain to England, from 
England to France. Once in a while, tired of this constant 
pursuit, he would stage an innocent deceit: would walk 



290 



THE RECAPTURE 



out of a hotel leaving his baggage behind, meet Milly out- 
side, move to a nearby town and mail letters to friends 
in the other end of the world, in Patagonia or South 
Africa, to have these letters remailed to Vienna. 

The reporters said he was the mystery man of Europe. 
His uncle thought he was the blackest spot on the escutch- 
eon of the Hapsburgs. 

Some mutual friends in Paris promised to arrange my 
meeting with John Orth, and my anticipation was keen. 
I was approaching the age when, in accordance with the 
traditions of the Russian royal family, a young Grand 
Duke was expected to marry a German Grand Duchess 
whom he had never seen before and who might prove to be 
the most repulsive girl on earth. It was cheerful to think 
that there existed royalty of Johann Nepomuk’s daring, 
and that, should the worst come to the worst, I could imi- 
tate his example. . . . 

He came in accompanied by a young girl. No introduc- 
tion was necessary to know that she was the famous Milly 
Stubel: her frightened eyes and haggard face told the story 
of their wanderings. At once he said that he wanted to ask 
me to do him a favor. I thought he meant money, but he 
explained that it was to be a more important favor. Would 
I consent to talk on his behalf to the Emperor Franz Joseph 
while visiting Vienna the following month? This puzzled 
me. Why I, of all people? — a youngster seeing the Austrian 
Emperor for the first time in his life. 



291 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



"It seems to me,” I said, "that it would be much better 
if the pleading were done by one of your brothers or 
cousins.” 

He shook his head. 

"They all hate me,” he said curtly. "I am asking you to 
do it just because the old man has never seen you and 
especially because of your youth. In his heart the Emperor 
is not bad. It may soften him that a young Russian Grand 
Duke is pleading for another young man. Tell him that 
we are supremely happy. Tell him that all we are asking 
of him is to permit me to receive a small part of the income 
from my estates. I am not asking to be reinstated in my 
title and I do not want to go back to Austria. A bit of 
money, now and then, is all that I and my wife need. 
Isn’t it so, Milly? Aren’t we happy to have each other?” 

She nodded but remained silent. The poor thing obvi- 
ously did not believe that anyone could "soften” the stone- 
willed Emperor. 

We chatted for a while and then they got up. 

"If the news is good,” said John Nepomuk, "will you 
please notify me at this address? If not, do not bother to 
write. I shall understand what your silence means.” 

The address written on the back of his visiting card 
read: "Mr. John Orth, c/o Hotel Bauer au Lac, Zurich, 
Switzerland.” 

I never saw the hapless couple again, but I did write 
them of the results of my intervention in Vienna. Unfor- 



292 



THE RECAPTURE 



tunately, it took less than half a dozen lines. No sooner 
did I broach the fatal subject to the Emperor than he low- 
ered his watery eyes, which only a moment before had 
been permeated with kindness, and said in a muffled voice: 
“It is not my habit to solicit anyone’s assistance in solving 
the problems of my family. I do hope that His Imperial 
Highness will enjoy his stay in Vienna.” 

No one has ever learned the exact circumstances or the 
country of John Orth’s death. His last letter received by 
his friends in Paris was dated "Chatham, England, March 
26 , 1891,” and advised them of his intention to sail for 
South America. Supposedly he died in Argentina a year 
later, at the age of thirty-nine. Not less than a score of 
impostors have appeared within the last fifteen years in 
the two Americas, using John Orth’s name and threaten- 
ing to sue the Hapsburg estate. Discovery that there was 
no such thing as a "Hapsburg estate,” all of it having been 
swallowed by the inflation in Austria, usually sent the en- 
terprising old gentlemen back to more profitable ways of 
cheating. If Milly Stubel is alive today she must be sixty. 
I hope, for her sake, that her second husband is a com- 
moner. 



3 

A whole quarter of a century passed before I again faced 
an Emperor to plead for the fate of a young man in love. 
In the case of John Orth I was prompted by a purely 



293 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

egotistical motive: I was thinking of myself and my own 
future. But now, in the study of Czar Nicholas II, I spoke 
with the eloquence of a worried father. My own sons 
were rapidly growing up and I felt that unless I succeeded 
in breaking that wall of prejudice there would be trouble 
and heartbreak and tragedy in my family. The circum- 
stances seemed favorable: the Czar had to deal with two 
other culprits at the same time. The elder was his uncle, 
the younger was his own brother. Both were handsome 
and beloved by everybody. Both, with an interval of ten 
years, had married divorced commoners. Both had been 
forced to leave Russia. 

"Things have come to a pretty pass,” said the Czar 
nervously, "when my Uncle Paul dares to marry the 
divorced wife of one of my officers and my brother Misha 
goes his uncle one better and picks for his consort a twice 
divorced daughter of a radical Moscow lawyer. A double 
breach of etiquette in the case of Paul and a triple breach 
in the case of Misha!” 

What he meant by "double” and "triple” breaches was 
that not only was a Grand Duke not supposed to marry 
a commoner, but no divorced woman was ever permitted 
to appear in the presence of Their Majesties. 

"My conscience is clear,” he added as an after-thought. 
"I did everything to stop Misha from taking that reckless 
step.” 

I had to suppress a smile. Not only had the Czar done 



THE RECAPTURE 



his level best to interfere with his brother’s marriage in 
Russia but every Russian Ambassador abroad had been mo- 
bilized, every European chancellery notified and a squad of 
secret service men dispatched to shadow the fugitive 
couple, with the result that the story of Misha’s wedding 
reads like a detective thriller. 

The employees of a small German railroad station could 
hardly have dreamed that the very tall young man and his 
thickly veiled woman companion who jumped off the Paris 
express in the early hours of a winter morning were the 
brother of the Czar of All the Russias and his future con- 
sort. It was not until the train reached the French capital 
that the three Russian secret operators, picked because of 
their experience and vigilance, discovered that their august 
prey had escaped them. Then they rushed to Cannes, on 
the French Riviera: the night before they had read with 
their own eyes the telegram dispatched by the Grand Duke 
from Berlin, which requested the management of a hotel 
in Cannes to reserve a "comfortable suite for two.” They 
thought that sooner or later the Grand Duke was bound 
to show up there. 

Notified of the newest developments, the Russian Am- 
bassador in France got in touch with the Minister of the 
Interior and the latter was only too glad to oblige the 
Czar. "Fear not, my dear colleague,” he reassured the Am- 
bassador. "No French justice of the peace and no mayor 
would dare to disobey my orders.” That was that, and St. 



295 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 

Petersburg Society prepared for the home-coming of the 
prodigal Grand Duke — it looked as if, having failed to se- 
cure a marriage license in Germany and France, he would 
have to return and beg the forgiveness of his Imperial 
brother. 

The chief of the secret service received monarchial 
thanks for the efficiency of his men, and for a whole week 
all was peace in the Czar’s palace. Then a disturbing wire 
arrived from the Russian Ambassador in Vienna: a man by 
the name of Michael Romanoff had been married to a 
woman by the name of Natalia Sheremetievsky in a small 
Austrian town just a week ago. ... So certain was the 
Czar that his brother would never think of invading the 
country of the very strict Hapsburgs that the Austrian 
Government was the only one whose "friendly” assistance 
had not been solicited by the Russian Court! 

The irritation of the Czar may well be imagined. Dis- 
obeyed and ridiculed, he was in no mood to listen to my 
plea for tolerance and forgiveness. 

"You are wasting your time,” he said to me. "If I fail 
to discipline my own uncle and brother, then what right 
have I got to expect the outsiders to obey me?” 

Quite so, Nicky,” I agreed with as much enthusiasm 
as I could muster under the circumstances. "But let me re- 
mind you of something that we both witnessed as children. 
Do you recall that night in the Winter Palace when we sat 
at the dinner table of your grandfather and watched our 

296 



THE RECAPTURE 



relatives snub the poor Princess Dolgorouky? Weren’t you 
sorry for her? Weren’t you in sympathy with your grand- 
father?” 

"Of course I was,” he exclaimed impatiently, "but I was 
only thirteen then, and naturally no boy of that age can 
appreciate the wisdom of a rigid dynastic rule.” 

Is there wisdom, Nicky, in trying to separate two peo- 
ple who love each other? Is there wisdom in forcing your 
brother to quit a woman with whom he is happy and 
marry someone he does not care for?” 

Words, words, words,” he said, with a wave of the 
hand. "We Royalty must think of our task, not of our 
personal desires and fancies. It is all very well for you 
to heap abuse on our system of marriages, but this is the 
only system that preserves our children from inheriting 
the traits of the commoner.” 

"And what are those awful traits, Nicky?” I asked 
quietly, trying not to sound unduly ironical. 

He gave me a sharp glance. 

Just two, he said severely. "The quest of personal 
happiness. The desire to enjoy life. No sovereign may be 
happy. No sovereign may enjoy life. If he does” — he 
shrugged his shoulders, waited a moment and added, look- 
ing his gloomiest — "then nothing is left of what we call 
Royalty!” 

"I see,” I said. "You must be a confirmed believer in the 
law of heredity. But then, Nicky, how do you explain that 



297 



ALWAYS A GRAND DUKE 



neither your brother Misha nor your Uncle Paul has in- 
herited that very laudable determination to be unhappy? 
God knows, there are no commoners in their family tree.” 
"I do not have to explain it,” he returned dryly. "My 
duty is to see that they are properly punished.” 

And punished they were. Not until the outbreak of the 
World War had made all the sacred rules seem insignificant 
and puerile were the two Grand Dukes permitted to return 
to Russia. Even then, though put in command of fighting 
units of the army, they remained estranged from the Czar, 
and their wives were never treated as equals by the mem- 
bers of the Imperial Family. Across the letter of Grand 
Duke Paul, who asked for his morganatic consort the 
rather modest privilege of being placed ahead of the gen- 
eral aides-de-camp during official receptions, the Czar 
wrote in blue pencil: "What arrant nonsense!” 



4 

The violinist has stopped playing. Everybody has left. 
I am alone. I am annoyed with myself for thinking about 
things that belong to a far past. John Orth. Misha. Nicky. 
What "arrant nonsense,” indeed . . . All of them are 
gone. Very soon I myself will have to go. I have seen so 
many wars that I have lost the ability to distinguish be- 
tween "heroism” and "cowardice.” He who tries to be 
else instead of walking through doors that are 

298 



someone 



THE RECAPTURE 

open, is he a hero or a coward? I don’t know, I am sure. I 
do know, however, that the greatest thrills and the most 
gratifying adventures of my life seemed so much grind, 
so much misery, at the time they happened. 

If I get up now and walk down the street toward the 
railway embankment, I shall think, no doubt, of the many 
others who are dead, whom I used to see off or meet at the 
station of Monte Carlo. My father. My brothers. My sister. 
King Edward. I envied them when they were alive. I pity 
them now. They were never given a chance to taste what 
I had tasted and to see themselves from a distance. They 
died regretting that they had not been born in different 
families, under different circumstances. They did not live 
long enough to understand that there is no such thing 
as "personal happiness,” that it is only the dream about 
Solveig that is worth an effort, not Solveig herself. 

It is getting late. The motor-cars squatting in front of 
the Casino are switching on their lights. Some friends are 
awaiting me in the roulette hall but I am tired of the past 
and I dread to come face to face with the ghosts of the 
Casino. They are nasty, second-rate ghosts. They talk in 
accents of impotent hatred and petty greed. They must 
have been politicians in one of their earlier incarnations. 
They should have been buried long ago. 

I am going home. I have one, for the first time in sixty- 
seven years. Not much of a home — just big enough for 
me and my future. Oat. b. \cj33. 

299